2011 Financial and Life Goals

Last year, the goals I set were purely financial. It was hit or miss on whether or not we actually met them, but overall I’m happy with our finances and we’re debt free so that’s pretty much all that matters. This year, instead of making the goals all about money, I decided that I would set some different goals that included life experiences. After all, that’s the real reason we spend our money wisely: to enjoy life. With that said, here are some goals I’d like to work toward this year.

1. Keep up with the clutter and declutter 365 items from our house this year. I won’t be alone in this challenge, so that’s good to know! I’m a little intimidated by the number, but I am thinking once I get started it really won’t be too bad.

2. Pay at least $3,000 down on the principal of our mortgage. The mortgage is a debt that doesn’t hang over my head quite like the student loans did, but it’s still debt nonetheless. It feels really good to see the principal balance go down, so this is something I would like to do.

3. Travel to somewhere fun and exciting. Even though it will cost us money, I think it’s money well spent. We value going to new places and exploring more so than we enjoy new Stuff, so I think the hardest part of this will be deciding where to go (and then parting with the money!) I’d love to be able to take a couple trips with Mr. Money, but I think one big trip will have to be all that we take this year. Who knows, this may be the last kid free vacation we’ll be able to take!

4. Get knocked up. Self explanatory. I’m hoping this year we finally get pregnant. If it doesn’t happen in 2011, we’ll probably look into other ways to become parents, and maybe even through adoption. I hope that we can have at least one child of our own. Keep your fingers crossed for me if you will!

5. Live on one salary. I think living on Mr. Money’s salary alone will be good practice for what will happen if goal #4 finally is accomplished. When we have a baby, I plan on staying at home to raise the baby, so living on one salary will be good practice. With my salary, we can save it for the future and maybe even tackle some fun home improvement projects.

6. Make more money from side hustles. Whether it be that I actually start making soap and selling it, or I pick up some freelance writing, I would like to increase my income aside from my 9-5 job. It would be awesome if I could increase my side hustle income enough to go part time at my 9-5 job!

7. Stay debt free! After paying off credit card debt, student loan debt, and a car loan, I’m over having debt! It feels amazing each month to not have the worry of all those different payments coming out of our checking account each month. I love having fewer and fewer bills!

Those are the things I’d like to tackle this year. I think they are all goals that will make me happy when they are finally accomplished.

Here’s to a happy and successful 2011!

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Will Free Checking Accounts be a Thing of the Past?

Since the Regulation E went into effect in August, Banks have taken a huge hit to their fee income. While the regulation is great for the consumers’ wallet, it hasn’t helped the banking industry. Before the regulation, banks were making a lot of money with fee income, and that went away when banks stopped allowing customers to overdraw their account without their consent. As an effect of the regulation and the drop in fee income, I’m betting that free checking accounts will soon become a thing of the past. I’ve got a couple theories of what will happen to free checking accounts.

Current Checking Accounts

Currently banks offer many different types of checking accounts. The most popular type is the free checking, which normally doesn’t require a minimum balance. Other checking accounts may provide benefits, such as free checks, free cashier’s checks and money orders, and bonus rates on certificates of deposit. While these type of checking accounts provide additional benefits that the free checking accounts don’t, they also normally require minimum balances.

“Free” Checking Accounts in the future

As it’s been in the past, free checking accounts have had no stipulations, and many came with a package of benefits. Free online banking, online bill pay, a free check card, no minimum balance, and no monthly maintenance fees. In the future, I think banks will start charging for some or all of these items. My guess is that banks will either require minimum balances or charge for items ala carte. For instance, if you want online banking, it may cost you $1 a month. Add on bill pay, and that may be another $1 a month.

As it is currently stands, we have two checking accounts. I use one as our “secret account” that I transfer half the mortgage payment into each time my husband gets paid. If it does change where they require a minimum balance, I’ll probably end up opening an Electric Orange checking account with ING. I’m hoping there will always be free checking accounts, because fees are not something I want to pay each month!

I’m probably going to look into other banks’ checking accounts.  Of course, they could change their stipulations too, so I may be in the same boat as if I just stay with our current bank, so who knows if that will do me any good.  I may just go ahead and open the ING Electric Orange checking so I’ve got that account established in the event that I want to make that our main account.  The only drawbacks are that the ATMs for ING are not close to our house at all, so I’d have to do weird things to avoid ATM fees.

I’m really hoping that banks don’t start charging outrageous fees just to have checking accounts.  It’s necessary for so many people to have a checking account, and I know that no one wants to pay just to keep an account at a bank.  Bank fees are no fun at all!

Have you heard anything about free checking accounts changing?

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How Safe are Online Banks?

The other day I was talking to my mother about how all of our savings and emergency fund is at ING.  I have been an ING customer for years, and have had nothing but good experiences with them.  They offer a really competitive rate on their high yield savings accounts- of course it’s not much now, but what savings accounts are paying a good rate now?  I really like banking with ING because they don’t require a minimum balance and no monthly fees.  I’ve also got a few accounts set up with them for specific purposes, like car insurance, escrow, and our emergency fund.  It helps me keep those expenses separate and make sure I have enough money for each event.

My mother was concerned about the safety of using an online bank.  She doesn’t do online banking at all and I don’t think she ever will.  That’s fine.  She just said I may want to think about moving my money to a brick and mortar bank because it’s safer.  With all the bank failures over the past couple years, I don’t know if I trust a brick and mortar bank over an online only bank like ING.

Of course, after she mentioned it I got worried.  What if my information got stolen and someone logged in and added a new bank account that wasn’t actually mine?  They could steal all my money.  Of course, I’m not too worried about someone transferring money to my main checking account, as I would notice a large deposit in my checking account right away.

I know that online banks work hard at keeping their software updated to prevent stolen identities and hacked accounts.  I truly hope no one I know ever has a bad experience with the safety of online banks.  With ING when you log in you have to enter your customer number, wait for your special image and phrase to show up, and then enter your pin using the keyboard numbers.  It’s just a 4 digit pin versus a regular password, and that concerns me.  I haven’t had any problems for over 5 years, so I don’t think I should be so concerned.

I guess my generation is used to online banking and doing things online that involve money.  Pretty much everyone I know that’s my age uses online banking, paypal, and other means to move money online.  It’s just the norm, so there really isn’t much apprehension about the safety of online banking.  I know that people are concerned about the safety of online banking but they trust that the banks are doing everything they can to protect their clients’ identities and account information.

I hadn’t really given it a second thought to banking strictly with ING as far as our savings accounts go.  I haven’t had any problems with security, so why worry now?  I have to admit that I have been considering switching our account (or at least part of it) to a brick and mortar bank in town.

Do you use an online only bank like ING? Are you concerned about the safety of online banks?

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