Money Monday: Mint.com

How many of you are Mint.com users? It was one of those websites I signed up for early on, then forgot about. A friend of mine mentioned it recently which propelled me to give it another try.

Hands down, Mint is the best financial website out there. Gone are the days of tracking debits and credits in an Excel file. Mint aggregates all my balances in one place (my mortgage at Wells Fargo, my brokerage account at Schwab, my Chase credit card, my savings account at Navy Federal, my property value via Zillow). I can track all my transactions, figure out a budget, and see my net worth.

It’s pretty awesome. Check it out.

Budget: Extreme Makeover

I’ve been crunching numbers non-stop lately.

It started when my tenant gave notice that he’d be leaving at the end of this month. Quick to Craigslist. What’s the going rate for a 1-bedroom apartment in Lower Pac Heights? I’ve been renting my place for more than two years, steadily increasing the rent with each new lease. But this time, I aimed a lot higher. The rental market is dot-com hot. I’ve got Googlers, engineers, doctors, interns, VCs emailing and calling. A New Yorker hired at Facebook told me he was contending with crowds of applicants at every open house. Bejesus! Instead of 20%, I should have increased the rent by 30%. I still would have had the demand.

With the rental money covering my mortgage, HOAs, and property taxes combined, I don’t want to be one of those un-disciplined Americans who takes that extra money and spends it. Like when we get raises, we adjust our lifestyle accordingly. No, I want to be fiscally conservative.

More research! Even before the tenant changeover, I have been eyeing mortgage rates, targeting a 4% or lower 30-year rate. Then a friend tipped me off to consider a 15-year. THANKS KITTY! I couldn’t seem to make the numbers work, but I kept on it. Determined to cash in on these low rates, I searched all the major banks’ websites for mortgage rates. I scoured the web. I looked at ING and First Republic. I called Residential Finance Corporation because they had mailed me a promotion. And lastly, I checked Navy Federal Credit Union who I used to refinance my private student loan. There it was, a 3.125% 15-year mortgage rate – right on the money.

A little bit of luck, ample social networking, friendship, a lot of research, and persistence. It pays.

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