Create Freedom for your Life and Finances Using Mint.com

Caving and mint.com

This Mint.com is an amazing tool, very similar to a flashlight. How? If we are exploring a cave, we need a flashlight to be able to find our way in and out. Our finances can sometimes be like a dark cave. A place we are bumping around in, making decisions, not fully aware if it is getting us to where we want to go. Having a powerful light is the right tool for the job. Mint.com is an amazing tool, very similar to a flashlight. If we are exploring a cave, we need a flashlight to be able to find our way in and out. Our finances can sometimes be like a dark, damp, cave. A place we are bumping around in, making decisions, not fully aware if we are on the right path or going where we want to go. Having a powerful light is just the right tool for the job.

Mint.com has been the most important instrument for positive change in my finances. If you make one change towards greater freedom, in my opinion, this should be it.

Why? It can create a domino effect of positive change. It is like a forming the snowball before you roll it down a massive hill. Making the snowball really is not that difficult and it can have huge impact. So let’s make some snowmen!

What is it?

Mint.com is a free to use website and app to track your finances all in one place. You can link all of your financial accounts to your mint account. The app automatically updates and categorizes all of your spending, creating a picture of your finances all in real time.

mint.com for your finances

Why is it important?

With mint you will have accurate information to make informed financial decisions. I can no longer lie to myself about how much I spend on *insert splurge item here. If I decide I want to change my diet, and I want to know after two months if I spend more or less than I previously did. I can easily find out in about five minutes! What an amazing tool for being conscious about our decisions.

You can use the information to better plan for the future. I know exactly how much money I need for my fixed expenses if I decide to go on an extended mini-vacation.

Extremely helpful when you want to automate your bills and investments which saves time. (I will be doing a post about this in the future.)

We can use mint to hold ourselves accountable.

It allows us to view our spending behavior more objectively. It brings our finances out into the “light”, where we can make more conscious decisions.

This enables us to make changes if our habits are not serving our values.

We can make sure our money is being spent on the items that bring us the greatest joy.

Morgan knows what purchases bring her the greatest happiness.

Changes I have made to my finances based on mint.com

  • Switched banks from a credit union which charged me $8 a month to an online bank, Ally bank , that pays me 1% in my checking and savings account. This saves me about $100 a year and earns about $60 a year. A total positive change of $160 a year!
  • I lowered my monthly expenses from an average $1600 to $950. By knowing my spending I had better information to make changes like selling my truck and buying a gas efficient car to live the Vibe life.
  • I’ve become more accountable to my credit card spending because it is categorized. This one is amazingly helpful!

Cool Features

  • You can set up Mint bills which connects with your budget. It will create an accurate picture and is possible to set reminders for any bill. I find it helpful for bills like my auto insurance which I will pay every 6 months to get an extra discount. Now it never sneaks up on me and it is automated so I don’t worry about it.
  • You are able to use your data to create reports and see trends in your spending or income.
  • I can see how my net worth is changing over time.

Is your financial information safe?

Mint uses the same data that you use when you check your online bank account or online credit card account. Simply, mint is as safe as using online banking. This is what they do to protect your data, “We use measures like multi-factor authentication, designed to help you protect access to your account. Mint participates in security scanning with VeriSign to help ensure security for sensitive data transfer. Mint comes from the makers of TurboTax® and QuickBooks®, trusted by millions with sensitive data. They have a great FAQ on ways to make your account as safe as possible if this is still a concern. https://www.mint.com/how-mint-works/security#toc

Get Started Now

It’s easy to set up an account. Head over to mint.com and create a free account. Also, using a smart phone you can download their free app.

 

If you use mint, what positive changes has it brought to your life?

Do you use a similar software? What do you like about it?

How Buying is Affecting our Freedom

Freedom in Moab Utah

How can we earn the freedom of our time and mental capacity?

“To be free, to be happy and fruitful, can only be attained through sacrifice of many common but overestimated things” – Robert Henri

When is it all enough?

When do we have all of what we want? For me, and most people I know, the answers to these questions are a struggle. My wants constantly continue and in response I will continue to order the things I “need”, with 1 click. It is easier than ever before to continue this cycle of consumption without being fully intentional about buying.

What does this do to our lives?

We now have the choice of not shopping in a physical store for 99% of our needs. This is a liberation of time for those who can harness their consumption. It also means that we need to be more intentional than ever about how we make our buying decisions.

What questions should we ask ourselves before we make a purchase?

We may ask ourselves, is it convenient? Or can I afford this? I would say that these are the wrong questions to be asking ourselves. Here is why. It depends on how you are defining afford and convenient. Let’s say we work 40 hours a week. Would we rather be spending 20 of those hours doing something else? Like on a road trip, enjoying the park, or rock climbing with friends. We work those 20 hours because we need the money to pay for the things we think we can “afford”.

Our new definition of “can I afford it?”

If we are not currently saving at least 50% of our take home pay, then we can’t afford it. That 50% is what we are saving for our freedom.

We will have to continue to spend on things like groceries, transportation, and our passions. That is the key for me. I need to raise the bar on what I am willing to buy. It needs to be a hell yes purchase! Like the $300 bicycle that contributes to my happiness everyday and reduces the amount of money I spend driving for the rest of my life. That is a hell yes!

Not Buying Challenge

This is something that I am working on in my life. Cultivating the habit of “not buying” has made me more resourceful and appreciative of what I have. When someone asks if they can borrow something from me I get excited! It feels great to help out a friend and know that we have each others back. Let’s give that same gift to our friends and borrow something every once in a while.  Every dollar that I don’t spend is an asset that is purchasing my freedom of time and choice. There is even a great “not buying” challenge. This is a challenge of how long you can go without buying anything other than basic necessities. I am starting my not buying challenge today, and I will keep you posted on how long my streak lasts.

tunnel vision

I listened to a great episode of the Hidden Brain Podcast this week titled “Tunnel Vision”. The podcast features research that has been done to show that our brains become hyper focused on scarcity in our lives. When we have this scarcity, like time or money, it is taking some mental bandwidth away from other areas of our lives. Constantly we have that scarcity as a distraction which hinders our focus on any other tasks. If we can be content with what we have right now, we will have more mental capacity to solve problems, create, or engage in a deep and meaningful conversation. Those are the activities I want my brain to be focusing on.

What are you going to not buy this week?

The Ultimate Guide for Saving Money on Used Outdoor Gear

Do you love finding a great bargain deals on outdoor gear? If you do then you are well aware that getting quality used gear can save you a lot of money. Saving money allows us to spend more time outside doing the activities that we love so mastering this skill can pay big dividends in the long run. Instead of running out to get the latest and greatest, you can save money by taking your time and swooping on the best deals.

Use craigslist as your personal used gear hunter.

People often invest in a sport and later realize they don’t have the time or are not interested in it any longer. They now must sell their barely used gear for pennies on the dollar. How do you find it? Set up craigslist email notifications.

Step 1: First create an account at craigslist.com

Step 2: Now let’s say you want to buy rock climbing equipment. Type in rock climbing into your search bar and see what comes up. Maybe a deal, or maybe nothing. That’s okay.

Step 3: On the left side of the screen set your miles from zip to the amount of miles you are willing to drive for used gear. Then set a maximum price. Then update search.

Step 4: Click save search, next to the search bar.

Step 5: Check that you want email alerts for new postings. Done! Now you can swoop on any great deals that come up. Of course you can be more specific with search terms if you only want a specific piece of gear like a rope.
Used Gear Store

If you live in an outdoor town, you might have a shop dedicated to used outdoor gear. I was recently in Moab, Utah and they have a used gear store that we stopped into and found some good bargains. Moab Gear Trader is the name of the shop in case you are in town.
Ebay

This gives you access to a huge selection of used gear. Try and be specific with your search terms and select auction to view used gear. The downside of ebay is you cannot be 100% on the quality by looking at the pictures so make sure to read the description thoroughly. I’ve had great success buying used climbing cams on ebay.

REI Garage Sales

REI now hosts monthly “garage sale” for members at most of its locations. If you live close to an REI and you don’t mind a little of the black Friday vibe than you can save some big money. https://www.rei.com/promotions/garage-sale

Ski Swaps

Local to your area. Use the craigslist tip mentioned above to find out when they are happening in your area. Just search ski swaps in the community section and follow the same steps.

I hope the tips in this guide save you time and money on the outdoor gear you need for living to adventure.

Have a tip about used gear? Share your tip in the comments below.

Creating the Space to Practice Acro

This weekend the Davis Acro-Vets performed for the first time at the UC Davis Veterinary Talent Show. It was a great experience and is one of the first formal performances I’ve ever done in my life. I am very proud of Morgan, Neda, Tyler, Krysti, and I. Without the optimism of the group we would not have been able to create such a phenomenal routine.

Acro yoga in Yosemite
Learning acro yoga in Yosemite, California

What enabled us to make a great acro routine?

We had fun practicing, so we did it as often as we could. We communicated our needs to each other and we adapted our practice. This helped us all feel confident in our preparation.

We had a space to practice on a consistent basis. Having a garage converted into a gymnastics studio has been one of the best additions to my daily life. When our friends come over they don’t want to leave.  We used ¾” thick mats that we ordered on amazon to pad the floor for under $200.

Investing in a home gym has given such a high happiness return. I recently made a kit of the items we use everyday in our home gym and for acro yoga that you can see here. https://kit.com/Vibelife

Without further ado, our performance!

Dreaming of Van Life? Try Vibe Life

Van life has become ever more popular among outdoor enthusiast. I dreamed about the day I would have a Sprinter Van. I would be able to make epic climbing road trips around the US. Thus, my dream was put on hold. Until recently, I sold my pickup truck and purchased a Pontiac Vibe.

Now I have been on two amazing road trips, one to Moab, Utah and another to Bishop California. I’m a fan of the van life movement but I have been able to achieve much of the same freedom with my Pontiac Vibe hatchback. I also get to boast 36 MPG. Most of the F-350 vans I see at the crags could not possibly be getting. Do you need a $10,000 Volkswagen van to live the van life? No, I’ve found that I can live that same lifestyle in my $5,000 Vibe.

Maybe Vibe life, or hatchback life, or extended car camping road trips are for you. The following lessons will make the most out of your space and time.

Car Camping Tips

Have all your camping gear set up in storage bins that you can move easily into your vehicle. I want to be able to load up the car and get on the road in under an hour. Being prepacked is how I am able to do so.

Have two clear “under-bed” storage bins for food and food preparation items. This makes it so easy to access your dry foods without rummaging through bags.

Bring body wipes for the times showers are unavailable. You’re on the road and time is valuable. Just use a wipe before bed and you will be feeling as fresh as a daisy.

Use Frisbees with wax paper on top as reusable plates. Throw the wax paper away after the meal and be thankful for less camping dishes. Less dishes = more time to look at the stars.

When packing away sleeping mats on multi day trips I just roll it up and stuff it into my pillow case. No need to get it perfect. = More time to climb rocks!

What I bring car camping.

Food preparation; Colman stove and propane, frying wok, fish filet spatula, Frisbees for plates, wax paper, aluminum foil, can opener, zip lock bags, jet boil, and small cooler.

Sleeping; inflatable sleeping mats, sleeping bags, and I bring my pillow because I’m spoiled.

Food; eggs, spinach, canned black beans, coconut oil, seasoning, oatmeal, coffee, avocados, water etc.

A Day in The Life

Vibe life looks like this. We fold down the seats and load up the car with our bins. We load and pack our cooler, and were off.

If it is a long trip we can stop at a rest stop, unload two bins and setup our mats in the back of the vibe. We sleep in the Vibe for free. Wake up, drive to our destination, and enjoy adventuring to our hearts content.

Our cost of a week long climbing trip in Moab, Utah was $200 each. This includes our $60 mountain bike rentals, food, and gas. This is the best vacation I have ever had in my entire life!

This is my challenge for you. If you plan to continue to live in a home and dream of van life, consider the alternative of vibe life. It’s inexpensive, efficient, and a hell of a good time.

One of our campsites near Moab, Utah.

The No Phone for One Week Challenge

The Switch

I decided to make the glorious switch to Google Fi about two weeks ago. My plan was to sell my iPhone and order a Google phone off of Amazon. I posted my phone on Craigslist and two days later I had a buyer drive 60 miles to buy my used iPhone. I wouldn’t have my Google phone for another week so I decided to live life without a phone for a week. The representative at Verizon overheard my conversation and chimed in, “You are going to hate it.” I thought to myself, “I live a life of adventure, I’ll be fine without a phone for a week.”

I walked out of the Verizon store without the iPhone that lived in my pocket for the past three years, or did I live in it for the past three years?

What I learned while without a phone

I learned that having access to my social network or the entire world, 24/7 produces a current of anxiety. I no longer worried that I forgot to respond to Tyler’s text about acro yoga and it was fine.

I learned that my phone distracts me from social interaction more than I would have admit. Posting the picture of the selfie we just took at dinner only takes two minutes right? It does, but without a phone I’m engaged with my partner at dinner on a deeper level. I never left the room (into my phone) to post that picture and I feel more connected to the human next to me because of it.

I learned most communication is not urgent and can wait until a face to face conversation is possible.

I learned that I would have compulsive urges to check my phone throughout the day. I would reach toward my pocket unconsciously and realize that there is no phone to pull out. The key here is that it was an unconscious urge or craving.

I learned that I did not miss the things I used my precious data on. Morgan and I were able to download 10 podcasts before our road trip to Bishop and spent more time reading or having conversation in the car. I didn’t need to check my email twice a day or my budget, or Facebook.

I learned that I really enjoy a morning routine that does not involve my phone. I loved waking up, brewing an artisan cup of pour over coffee with coconut oil and starting a gymnastic work out. I have read that the easiest way to make a habit change is to make the new habit easy to do. Not having a phone to distract me first thing in the morning made it so easy to follow my desired routine.

I learned that Morgan (my girlfriend) felt like I was less distracted without a phone. Wow, it really hits home when your loved one tells you that. I thought I was good about not being distracted by my phone before this experiment.

What I gained

During this week I had the time to travel to Bishop for a climbing and hot spring excursion. I was not missing my phone.

So now that I have my new google phone and I pay $33 a month for my phone service what will I do differently?

I have moved the nightly charging station of my phone into the kitchen. My phone sits on the fridge and normally I don’t even see it in the morning. This is great because I jump into my desired routine instead of getting sucked into an email or text message response.

I am more intentional with the apps I download onto my phone. If I don’t want to be distracted the best way is to just not download those distracting apps. If I want to go on Facebook I can use my laptop.

When I’m at home I keep my phone on a shelf and not on my person. It’s not something I need to compulsively check every 30 minutes.

This week experiment was a great experience for my life. It has helped shift my perspective and hopefully my awareness into the present moment.

Are you thinking life without a phone sounds like some sissy first world problem. I’d have say that you’re correct, it is. That’s why I challenge you to live life for one week without your phone. See what you learn and let me know. I’m sure after one week you will be feeling like Tyler in the picture below, standing atop a 400 foot desert tower in Moab, Utah.

Tyler’s first ascent up the fischer towers.

How to Save $5,000 on Your Phone Bill

If you are like me, then you have been paying Verizon, Sprint, or AT&T thousands of dollars over your lifetime. It all started for me in 8th grade when I got my first flip phone. Since that time I have loved the many advances in my phone and service provided by these carriers. Except, I slowly accepted that I had to deal with the moments of excruciatingly painful customer service calls and at least a $70 phone bill to have a smart phone. These have become the assumptions of owning the glorious pocket computer that can connect us with the anyone in the world, navigate us through any city during rush hour, and can take 10 mega pixel shots of your breakfast. We are stuck paying the premium for this right?  Not anymore. There is a new service in town!

The new service is called Google Fi and here is the rundown.

Google Project Fi Logo

Requirements

You must use one of three Google phones available. The Pixel, Nexus 6p, or Nexus 5x. That’s the only requirement! So if you were like me and you have an iPhone, you need to ask yourself, “When was the last time I looked at an Android phone, and is my iPhone really worth paying at least an extra $500 a year more for phone service.” I can say now after making the switch that I like my Nexus 6p more than my IPhone 6.

Plan Details

Cost is $20 a month and you pay $10 for every GB of data you use. So I will be paying $32.29 a month for a super computer in my pocket. I just download all my podcasts at home on my Wi-Fi which is what I previously spent my data on because I did not have the option of a 1 GB plan.

So what if you go over your data plan? You just pay for the amount of data you used. No fee. Thank goodness.

If you have a 4GB plan and you use only 1GB you will be credited the cost for the amount of data you did not use on your next bill. Say what! I’ve been waiting 10 years for this moment.

That’s all I needed to hear to think about make the switch. You can get all the details, including a cell coverage map here. https://g.co/fi/r/3988t5

How to save $5,000 on your Phone Bill

Doing the math on this decision is what really sold me. Here is what my savings calculation looks like.

Sale of iPhone: +$300 – Purchase of Nexus: -$400 = -$100

Cost of Verizon Monthly: $75

Cost of Google fi monthly: $33

Monthly savings: $42

First year savings: $404

Yearly savings: $504

That means over the next 10 years I will save $4,940 on phone service! Plus, I am happier with the service from google. Plus if I invest my monthly savings and earn a 5% return over 10 years I will have a total of $6,591. That’s certainly not just pocket change to me! I’ll gladly download my podcasts at home.

If you want to make the switch head over to https://g.co/fi/r/3988t5

If you use the link I provided you will be given a $20 credit off of your first Google fi bill.