Ask the grumpies: Alternatives to mint?

Linda asks:

I decided yesterday that I need to give up on Mint so I’m looking at replacements. I don’t really need a “budgeting” app. I use Mint mainly to track my spending, look at trends/patterns so I can make adjustments as needed to meet goals, and export reports for taxes. Doing some searches has led me to CountAbout as an option. It’s not free, and it seems that in order to get the automatic downloading of account data you have to pay $39.99 a year.

What do Grumpy Nation folks use? I’m open for suggestions.

The reason I’m giving up on Mint is that it simply will not connect to my mortgage or Ally Cashback credit card. I just get vague messages about security, although I can’t understand why there are problems since the security on these accounts don’t seem very different than others. I’ve tried their customer service chat more than once, and each time has ended with a “I’m sorry it’s not working” message. Ugh! These aren’t tiny financial institutions, and they are pulled up in the Add Account drop down, so some people must be able to get their accounts synced. I’m so tired of entering these transactions manually as “cash” transactions.

https://www.fivecentnickel.com/best-budgeting-tools/ people seem to like YNAB and Quicken, but that’s budgeting.  Leigh has programmed her own software.

#1 uses Mint, but not that carefully since it also usually doesn’t connect to one of her credit cards (despite working with her DH’s credit card from the same company) and doesn’t at all connect with her credit union.  We download all the tax stuff individually in February and just don’t pay that much attention otherwise.

#2 doesn’t use any program.

Grumpy Nation, surely you have better advice for Linda!  What software do you use to get your spending information all in one place, if any?

Book review: A Gentleman’s Position by KJ Charles

A Gentleman’s Position is getting its own review because it is the best regency romance I have read in a long time.  It is new and different and thought-provoking and very Courtney Milan.  I loved it so much!

It’s actually the third book in a series, but I read it first since Sarah Maclean’s recommendation caught my eye.  It is the best book of the three (unless you prefer the second which is also extremely good and explores sub/dom relationships) and I think the other two books are actually better for having read this one first, so long as you don’t mind spoilers.  (And if you’re reading regency romances… you probably don’t.)

What makes this book special?  Well, it’s about a male/male relationship in Regency London.  It does an amazing job of exploring the very real problems that people in this situation in this time period had, as well as class conflicts and how to pull together a relationship under these constraints.  The conflicts are real conflicts that sensible people in too realistic situations might end up with.  It also plays with standard romance tropes in a new setting that makes them all the more ridiculous in the standard male/female setting given the very real reasons they keep the two heroes apart in this setting.  Oh, and there’s a clever heist (technically a swindle) and I love clever heist books.

The two main characters don’t include a standard female trope in male body (or worse, tired Regency stereotypes that include the word “mincing”), but instead are two standard Regency heroes with slight tweaks to fit the setting.  Richard, the aristocratic hero, is your standard responsible lord of the manor trope (usually seen paired with either a manic pixie girl or with his sensible childhood friend as they keep a manic pixie out of trouble).  Here he’s the spare rather than the heir which allows him to remain unmarried without the duty to procreate.  Cyprian, his valet, is usually seen as the bastard brother of nobility (often working as his brother’s confidential secretary) or the whore’s bastard who now runs a gambling hell.  He is a superior Jeeves style valet in this book, but with far more ambition than to work for someone like Bertie Wooster.

There is explicit sex, much like the kind you’d read in a modern male/female Regency, and I guess it’s pretty vanilla given the biological differences in a male/male pairing?  (The other two books have heroes who are a bit more adventurous, and so are a bit more risque, particularly in the second book, and I’m only on the first chapter of the second book right now.)  (update:  still more risqué)

The minor characters are also interesting, and reading the previous two books in the series is like reading the back stories of old friends.  If there’s any complaint it’s that the book is a sausage-fest with very few female characters (oddly, at least two women are named Euphemia), but that’s forgivable given the circumstances of their segregated society and the illegality of homosexuality during this time period.  [Update:  Having read many of her other books, this is the only series that is a sausage-fest– the Magpie series, the Sins of the City* series, and her stand-alones have a lot more women as minor characters.  Also, all maiden aunts are named Lucie.]

This book is a great exploration of love against constraints.   I normally dislike love stories between an employer and an employee, but so does our hero, Richard, and figuring out how to make things work in that setting is a large part of the story.  How do you get equality in a society that wants to keep you apart?  Both heroes are incredibly likable and reading about their struggles reminds the reader of the very real struggles of GLBT couples today.

Also, the book is a lot of fun.  Especially the second half when everything comes together.

Strongly recommend!

*After writing the first draft of this review I went on a massive KJ Charles binge.  An Unseen Attraction in the Sins of the city series is the only one of her books available right now that isn’t a light-hearted regency.  It fits more in the gritty late 19th century murder/suspense genre than the long-regency romance genre.  The heroes will not end unscathed and some of the pain will be heartache.  Her magpie series also has magic and definitely fits in the 19th/20th century magician genre. (She has more books written than are currently available, but one of the companies that published her books has gone out of business so she’s going to re-release as self-pub ebooks in the near future.  I will read the rest of her Magpie books at that time!)

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Saving isn’t necessarily “easier” for people who save more: A deliberately controversial rant

One of those bloggers who makes a ton and spends a ton and is always complaining about debt/bragging about purchases/letting other people buy hir necessities often talks about how it’s just *easier* for other people to not spend money on luxuries and trips.  Other people just don’t enjoy such things as much as zie does.  Other people aren’t *really* sacrificing.  Other people don’t know what it’s like, having friends who like to go out and spend money, wanting to go on trips, wanting to buy nice things.

Every time I read something like this, I want to say @#$#@ you.  I mean seriously.  You are not a special snowflake.  @#$@# you.  Sacrifice is NOT fun.

It isn’t easier for me to not have things I want.  I don’t get my kicks from saving instead of spending.  I would *love* to take vacations and eat out all the time and live someplace amazing and buy all sorts of fancy stuff.  But I don’t.

Why don’t I?  Two main reasons:

First:  That feeling you’re always complaining about?  The one where your budget comes up short and you don’t know where the missing money is going to come from?  The one where you’re getting lots of sympathy from your blog followers?  That one.  I HATE that feeling.  I hate it so much that I have something called an emergency fund.  I hate it so much that I set my fixed expenses low enough that there’s some extra every month.  So much that we’ve never had consumer debt and we paid off our loans ages ago.

Second:  You know how your family bails you out when you don’t have money for a broken appliance or the kids’ tuition or a whatever the latest emergency is?  Yeah, I don’t want my parents, my parents who make less money than I do, to be bailing me out as an adult.  I don’t want them to @#$3ing sacrifice their wants because I wasn’t willing to sacrifice my own.  Emergencies happen on a pretty regular basis and you should plan for them.  If you can’t, then you can’t really afford those trips with friends.

So yeah, @#$@ you.  Sacrifice sucks for everybody.  That’s why it’s called sacrifice.

And maybe it’s easy to spend less for people like Mr. Money Moustache or Frugal Woods, but you don’t have to be an early retirement extreme junkie to be responsible with your finances.  And even with MMM and FW, it may just be that their values for the environment or for early retirement are stronger than their desire to spend.  That doesn’t mean they don’t have a desire to spend, just that there’s something more important to them than spending.

It’s not easier for other people to not spend.  It’s easier for you to let people bail you out or to have those regular feelings of panic than it is for the rest of us.

Link Love

Do you live in Georgia’s sixth district?  “There’s a special election in your backyard on April 18th. Democrats have a real shot to flip Georgia’s 6th Congressional District and send a message to Trump and the GOP. The voter registration deadline is this Monday, March 20th. Anyone in the district can register to vote or check your status ONLINE. You can get more information here: SwingLeft.org/GA-06. And please spread the word! #FlipThe6th.”

If you live in one of these districts, make extra special sure to call your House rep about the ACA ASAP.  Leave a message or fax if necessary!

Why a freelancer needs the ACA.  Georgia Dunn chimes in with another story.  CBO scoring.  Just stop being poor.

To be fair

The medicaid expansion reduced divorce.

Jared Kushner has major conflicts of interest with a Chinese firm.

US Border agents searching your cellphone.

Scientists running for office.

Knowledge is power shirt.

Not strong enough.

Man’s right to know.

Female name for a week.

Sophia Duleep Singh

Gmail phishing scam.

#1 YA

This is cute.

Ask the Grumpies: Outings for older kids

First Gen American asks:

Seems the last two go to weekend adventures have been dubbed as “for babies” by my tween. (They were a fall foliage historic train ride and corn maze/pumpkin fest in case you are wondering).

Wondering what new outings I can add that would hold the interest of the older one as I think we are outgrowing the zoo, museum phase of fun weekend activities.

#1 suggests: What do tweens like? Basically nothing! Also I have never outgrown the zoo and museum. [#2 notes, this is true– once when we met at a nearby city when #1 was at a conference, we went to the zoo]. Are there street fairs? I’d be happy to go to the library… Hiking? Fancy tea in the city? Music fest? Opera?

Make the tween suggest the things!

#2 suggests: What do tweens like? Protesting! Making a difference! Being active! Volunteering!

#1 says: That makes sense!  Volunteer at the cat shelter!

#2 notes: Miser-mom tends to have lots of good suggestions with her kids.

What is your favorite kind of pie?

#1:  I like apple myself.  Though I’m also a fan of pecan in moderation. (And, of course, pot pies are great.)

#2:  1.  Pumpkin, 2. French silk, 3. pie full of hammers [#1 does not know what this is], 4. Pecan-bourbon pie with chocolate chips

Why DH’s retirement account sent us a check for >$3000

Shortly after DH’s company switched from a high cost retirement provider to Fidelity (which is a better choice for small companies than is Vanguard because Vanguard charges small companies pretty high fees, in case you were wondering), DH got a check in the mail from Fidelity for >$5K.  As a distribution.  Even though DH is well under any possible age for required distributions.

It wasn’t a mistake.

On the back of the statement, it said, “It has been determined that you had an excess contribution…due to your plans non-discrimination testing…”

The problem, as explained to DH by the company’s finance person and also in this post I found online is that DH’s company doesn’t compensate its less highly employees as well for retirement as it does its highly paid employees.  And the highly paid employees are contributing to retirement compared to the less highly paid employees in too high a ratio.  So they failed a non-discrimination test and send money back to highly paid employees so that the overall firm level of contribution no longer fails that test.  It is our understanding that we will pay taxes on that money as if it is income in the 2017 tax year (though it is income from 2016).

So, DH can’t put away the full 18K + employer match (which is going away for the foreseeable future anyway) each year for retirement, but some number less than that.  So it’s a good thing that I can put away large amounts in my university 403bs and 457 plans.

There is a way to make it so the company doesn’t have to pass the non-discrimination testing, but figuring that out and pushing for it didn’t seem worth looking into given the way that DH’s company is laying everybody off at the end of the month.

So, that’s one of the fun things about working for a small company.

Have you ever gotten a 401(k) distribution because your company didn’t pass non-discrimination testing?