I’m using YNAB and I’m determined to succeed!

Rick & I are going to actually manage our money this year, instead of letting it abuse us. There’s no reason we should be struggling like we are. The money’s there, it’s just draining away with no set course. 2013 is the year we are going to get back in control!

I’ve had plans to fix things before, and none of them have worked. I’ve tried different programs & systems and either haven’t been able to get them to work, or haven’t been able to actually stick to them. My last failure was Mint.com. It seemed like the perfect solution on the surface. You can link your bank account to automatically import your transactions in real time. You can tell it which category to put certain expenditures into. You can access it from both Mac & PC, as well as mobile. It is free. Well, after a year of mostly ignoring our finances because Mint was doing all the work (even though it really wasn’t) I sat down to give it another shot. I decided that since we had a full year of transactions in Mint categorized that I could look at our actual expenses to build a budget. It seemed so obvious to me that a program that tracked all your money in and out could just generate a simple budget sheet for the year. Even just a list, something like You spent $xx.xx in Category A, You spent $xx.xx in Category B, etc. but if Mint can do that it’s not intuitive to find it. And I couldn’t find anyplace to tell it to automatically fill in a budget with those numbers so I could then start evaluating and tweaking our spending. I wanted to add some categories to the budget, but I found that Mint doesn’t allow you to modify the master categories at all, you can only add and subtract sub-categories. I was getting frustrated because I knew we needed a budget, but I’ve never actually sat down and done one. This program that people are always saying is awesome should be able to help me!

So, I turned to the place that knows everything, Google. One program kept turning up in articles I would read: You Need A Budget (YNAB.) I went to the site to check it out and almost left right away because the software costs $60. I couldn’t imagine paying $60 for a program that probably wouldn’t work. And of course it wouldn’t work for us, nothing else ever had! But it had a free trial, and the site looked like it had some good advice, so I downloaded it. I’m only 9 days into the 34 day trial and I’m already sold!

This is going to be more work than the “Use Mint and ignore it” method, but it should do something that one didn’t – WORK!

Here are some of the things I love about it already:

~ The trial period is 34 days! I love that it’s 34 instead of the standard 30. This way I can not only take the time to see if I like it, but no matter what day I start the program on I’ll be guaranteed one month to month transition before the trial runs out.
~ They write everything in simple straight-forward language because the goal is to make it as usable and understandable as possible.
~ YNAB is focused on deciding where to spend your money BEFORE you spend it, rather than focusing on where it went.
~ There is a free ebook you can read online that lays out the basics of YNAB.
~ It may be $60 to purchase it, but that is for the license. I’ll be able to use it on my Mac & my iPhone, and Rick will be able to put it on his PC and his Android phone. They all sync with each other in real time using Dropbox.
~ You have to either manually enter all your transactions, or download them from your bank in .QFX format and import them. It doesn’t fill itself automatically like Mint does.  This seems like it would be a strike against the program, but I’ll tell you why it’s a good thing for me in a minute.
~ There are only 4 basic rules for the system, and if I can implement them we will be able to build up a financial buffer for emergencies. 1. Give every dollar a job. 2. Save for a rainy day. 3. Roll with the punches 4. Live on last month’s income.

It’s going to be tough, but if we can do the system and stick with it we’ll see a world of improvement in our finances and how they’re handled. And this looks like it’s a system I’ll be able to stick with.

One of the things I read on the YNAB site was about the reason they force you to manually enter your data: “Manually entering your data keeps you close to your money and leads to a much greater awareness. Awareness is your greatest ally when it comes to money management… Importing transactions is quick and it serves as a great way to make sure that you didn’t miss anything. However, because of its ease, it does remove you from your money to some degree and that can impact awareness negatively.”

As soon as I read that it just clicked that everything I’d been doing the last few years had been distancing me from my finances and the last time I had a really strong grasp of both our income and our expenses was way back when I was manually entering every transaction into the register and physically producing checks for the payments. I want that security of knowing my bills are getting paid back.

2013 is a new year, and I may not make New Year Resolutions, but it’s time for change and this will be my year!

Printing digital photos

Ah film. Remember film? It still exists, you can still get it processed, and you can still get prints from (most of) those old negatives. But the majority of printing these days definitely comes from digital files. You’d think this would make it easier, and for the most part it does, but here are a few tips to help keep your lab person/printer sane when you come in. (And yes, by ‘your lab person/printer’ I mean ME!)

~ Organization! If you have a disc with 200 + images on it, and you are getting 20 or so printed, make a LEGIBLE list of the file names & numbers IN ORDER! When I’m going down the list to look for the ones you want the computer has them in order, and it makes it so much easier to find the random ones you want if I’m not bouncing up and down all over the file list!

~ Better yet, CDs & DVDs are pretty cheap now, burn a disc of just the images you want printed. You can even put them on a jump drive, you just have to be willing to either leave the drive or wait for the folder of pictures to transfer.

~ But don’t get too organized. I can only load from one folder at a time, so if you have 15 different folders I basically have to load files 15 different times. This increases the chances I’ll miss some, and it increases my frustration. Especially when each folder only has a couple pictures.

~ “But what if I have the folders labeled with the print size (i.e. 4×6, 5×7, etc)?” Don’t worry. That’s ok. That’s actually good organization that helps.

~ iPhoto is evil! Ok, not really, but it can be a PITA. iPhoto is great for the non-pro to keep their files organized on their computer, and to do non-destructive editing. But once you’ve got your pictures ready to print DON’T DON’T DON’T choose that burn disc option up there in the menu. This will give you a disc full of folders & thumbnails & crap that is really only easily useable by loading it into someone else’s iPhoto program. If you are copying photos to a disc out of iPhoto from the menu choose File –> Export…  This will give you a CD that has just one copy of your edited version of each photo in it.

~ Colorspace is important! The two most common ones are Adobe RGB and sRGB. Before having stuff printed check to see what colorspace the printer uses! My Fuji Frontier photo machine is sRGB. It assumes that any file I give it is sRGB. If I print something that’s in a different color space like Adobe RGB it will still print, but the colors will shift. There are other colorspaces out there too, and often there’s no real color change, but you shouldn’t chance it because I’ve never seen anything in the wrong color space look better than if it’s correct.

~ I know your next questions are “How do I know which colorspace I’m in? How do I change it?” I only know how to check it and change it in Photoshop. If you are using a different editing program there is probably a way, but I don’t know it. Google is your friend. In Photoshop I set the little status bar drop window on the bottom of the pictures to show Color Profile. This way anytime I open an image I can tell with just a glance which colorspace it’s in. If it’s in Adobe RGB I will leave it in that until my last save for printing. Adobe is a bigger colorspace and when you convert it to sRGB you will lose some of the range of color so it’s best to just do that after all your editing so you have as much to work with as possible before then. To change it in Photoshop you go to Edit –> Convert to Profile… A box will pop up and it will say Source Space at the top and list a profile. Then under that it will say Destination Space and have a pop-up menu to choose one from. Choose sRGB. Yeah, I know it actually says sRGB IEC61966-2.1. Don’t worry, it’s the right one. You don’t need to ever worry about remembering all those extra letters & numbers.

If I’ve saved this sample correctly you should be able to see a difference between the two versions of each file. Since the change is because of the way the machine reads the file’s colors the two files will usually look EXACTLY THE SAME on your screen, but you could end up with a shit print. Also, skin tones are really affected. A person in an AdobeRGB file printed on my sRGB machine will look really grey, flat, lifeless and dull!

These are just a few of the things that will help out the person at the photo lab who’s printing your pictures, and will also help you get better prints. The best thing you can do if you’re not sure about something – ask the person printing it!

Not a resolution.

Turns out blogging isn’t as simple as it looks. You actually have to have a little bit of focus & determination. You know, those things that are tough for us ADD/ADHD folks.  I start to feel guilty about not doing any recent posts here. I’m pretty sure both my readers refresh their feeds daily, if not hourly, just hoping for a new post here. Sorry guys!

It should be easy – Think of a subject, or a link that amuses me, or a story that makes me think. Then, just write about it. So many times I think “Oh, that would be a fun post on hellziggy.com!” but then instead of just writing I decide to research just one tiny bit. That’s where the trouble starts – The Internets! You all know how that goes. Hit one page, find the info you’re looking for, see an interesting link and follow it. Next thing you know it’s been an hour, nothing is written, but hey, you’ve seen lots of funny cat pictures! Don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about. After all, that’s probably how YOU ended up HERE!

But it’s a new year now, and the theory behind a new year is that you can make resolutions to change your life or things you do. Or, you know, be all sarcastic hipster and make a resolution not to make resolutions this year. I was doing that before it was cool. Seriously though, I’ve never been one to make resolutions, mainly because I suck at following through on them. So I’m still not making any, but I am going to try to get back in the rhythm of this writing thing. If I have an idea but can’t wright about it immediately I will make a note to myself rather than relying on my current method of going “yeah, I’ll remember that.” BECAUSE I NEVER DO! Hell, I’ve got so many electronic gadgets with me at all times that I don’t even need a pen and paper to make a note. 

If there’s some subject or event that you wish I would address and ramble on about just drop me a comment and let me know. If I don’t actually know anything about the subject I can go with that time-honored tradition of just making shit up!