Mvelopes – iPod Touch Results and Winner

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The results are in…

Thanks to all of you who participated in our first Mvelopes facebook poll and Apple iPod touch giveaway!  It was great to learn more about how Mvelopes has been helping you achieve financial fitness.  Make sure you check back regularly – not only will you be part of the growing community of Mvelopes users on facebook,  but we also have some more fantastic polls and giveaways coming very soon – (without revealing too much, can you say “weekend getaway” or “Apple iPad?”)  Great things happen with Mvelopes!

Now, on to our results!

For our first question, we asked for your name and email address.  100% (616 out of 620 – close enough!) gave us a name and 99.7% shared your email address with us.  Which not only makes sense but also shows how smart you are – after all, we have to have a way to contact you if you are the winner of the Apple iPod touch….

For our second question, we asked how long you have been using Mvelopes, the award-winning, insanely great, on-line envelope budgeting system (description provided by our marketing department – go figure).  Just over 60% of you have been using Mvelopes for more than one year!  That’s fantastic – thank you for your support.  Another 25% of you have been using it for three months up to a year.  For the remaining 25% of you who are new to the Mvelopes world, welcome to one of the most amazing financial tools you can use.  Stay with it and you’ll soon be an Mvelopes power user – and reaping the financial rewards of successfully managing your spending!

Our third question asked how much debt you’ve eliminated since you started using Mvelopes.  Over 22% of everyone who responded said they’ve eliminated *over* $10,000 in debt.  Another 40% have eliminated between $1,000 and $10,000 in debt.  That’s a whole lot of interest many of you are  no longer paying to banks and credit card companies and a whole lot of new financial freedom.  Mvelopes really does help people achieve their financial goals!

Question four asked how much your average checking account balance has increased since you started using Mvelopes.  32% of you have had your checking account balances increase from $1,000 to $5,000!  And another 10% of you have had your checking account balance increase by *more* than $5,000.  What a great thing to be building up financial reserves at the same time you’re paying off debt and managing your spending.  Mvelopes is what makes it all work!

For our fifth question we wanted to get a sense for how passionate Mvelopes users are about the system.  So we asked how many people you’ve talked to about Mvelopes.  An amazing 72% of you have talked with from one to ten people about Mvelopes.  15% of you have talked to as many as twenty people about the system.  We’ve always known that Mvelopes users were enthusiastic about the program, but we really appreciate you taking time to introduce others to  the best money management system available today (no, we’re not shy about bragging, either!)  And to the 9% of you who are talking to “everyone in town,” we sincerely hope you live in New York, Los Angeles, or another one of our large “towns!”

Our final question was designed to help us further prove something we’ve always suspected about Mvelopes users.  And since over 73% of you parallel park when given the opportunity versus driving around the block, we now know that Mvelopes users are not only among the smartest people around, they are also some of the best drivers as well.  Who knew good money management skills and practical driving abilities went together?  As for the 21 hardy souls who “drive” their bikes instead of parking cars, you remind us that being outside the box may be the best place to be.

So, have we forgotten anything?  Oh yes, that little issue of giving away an Apple iPod touch.  Drum roll please while we hit the random number generator button….

And our winner is Jon C. from Utah!

Congratulations!  We’ll be contacting you directly to arrange to get that new Apple iPod touch to you as soon as possible.

Thanks again to all of you for participating in our Mvelopes user survey.  Remember, more great surveys and giveaways are coming soon, so stay tuned on Facebook and our Blog!

Regards,

The Mvelopes team

photo courtesy of blogohblog.com

Planning ahead for Periodic Expenses

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Planning ahead for Periodic Expenses

It can be a little overwhelming to try to figure out how much money you should set aside for periodic expenses, such as auto or home maintenance.   While working with Mvelopes Members I generally try to walk them through the standard expenses that everyone can expect.  Let’s use Auto Maintenance as an example.

First we have oil changes. On average you will typically need 4 oil changes per year, depending on your mileage.  The cost of an oil change can vary depending on your city/state, type of car, or you’re your mechanic.  Let’s use a rough estimate of about $50 per oil change. That would mean $200 per year, or $16.66 per month.

Second we have miscellaneous things like windshield washer blades, windshield washer fluid, light bulbs, other fluids, etc.  Let’s assume $50 a year for these types of expenses.  You could also look at this as $4.16 per month.

Tires would be another expense that we can plan ahead for.  People replace their tires every 3 to 5 years typically.  Tires can vary a great deal in price, but for this example let’s use a rough estimate of $125 per tire.  Let’s assume we replaced our tires 2 years ago and we want to get new tires in about 2 years.  Four tires would cost $500 and if we had 2 years to set that money aside, we would want to set aside$20.83 per month, for 24 months.

With just these minimum typical expenses, we have easily come up with a budget of $41.65 per month for Auto Expenses, or $500 per year for the next 2 years.

You would of course also want to take into account the age of your car, and the mileage.  For example, there are manufacturer recommendations for certain services to be performed at 50,000 miles, 100,000 miles, etc.   Your mechanic should be able to provide you with a list of those services and their cost.

The same type of exercise can be done for home maintenance, holiday expenses, etc.  As you use Mvelopes you will become more aware of where exactly your money is going and you will find it easier to estimate these types of expenses.

-Jennifer Streiff, Money for Life Coach

photo courtesy of blog.omy.sg

Applied Principle #6 – Take a candid assessment by preparing a Net-Worth Statement

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Money for Life Applied Principle #6 – Take a candid assessment by preparing a Net-Worth Statement

As we’ve discussed, the process of changing your financial position takes commitment, sincere desire and even discipline.  It also takes a willingness to candidly analyze your current situation.

“When you join a fitness club for the purpose of losing weight or becoming physically fit, you will usually participate in an assessment of your level of physical fitness. A fitness coach will determine your current weight, measurements, body-fat ratio, and resting heart rate to define the best starting point for your fitness program. As you move forward with the program, your coach will take ongoing measurements and review the progress made.

This initial statement of physical health is very important. Without knowing where you are, it is difficult to understand where you need to go. This information becomes much more black and white when it is put into writing.”

In much the same way, you need to do the same thing with your current financial position. Figuring out exactly where you stand today is the best way to move forward in a meaningful way. Creating your initial Net-Worth Statement will help you in much the same way that a physical fitness assessment helps you know how to move forward.

“Many financial professionals view your Net-Worth Statement as the measurement of your personal wealth. A positive net worth indicates that the monetary value of your assets is greater than the total of all your liabilities. Negative net worth indicates you owe more in debt than the total monetary value of what you own.

Many people with average to high incomes have relatively low net worth. The financial challenges facing most people are not dependent on the amount they earn but on how they manage what they earn.”

Follow 3 easy steps and complete your personal Net-Worth Statement –

Step 1 – Make a list of your assets and their corresponding value

Step 2 – Complete a list of all debt obligations or liabilities

Step 3 – Calculate your net worth

STEP 1: Make a list of your assets and their corresponding value.

The first list to compile is your cash-equivalent assets. This includes the balance in your checking accounts, savings accounts, 401(k) accounts, IRA accounts, the cash value of life insurance policies, and the current market value of stocks, bonds, or other marketable securities.

The second list to compile is your real estate holdings. This includes the market value of your home and any other property you own.

The final list of assets would be an itemization of personal property. This would include the current value of vehicles, furniture, and higher-priced personal property like recreation vehicles, jewelry, collectibles, and, perhaps, electronic equipment.

STEP 2: Complete a list of all debt obligations (liabilities).

In this step, list all of your debt obligations. Start with the current amount you owe on your house, home equity loans, and debt consolidation loans. Then, list the amount you owe on vehicle loans. Finally, list the balance owed to all consumer debt accounts, including personal loans, student loans, charge accounts, credit card accounts, and any other type of consumer debt. You should be able to find the current balance for each of your debts by checking your most recent statement or by checking for the balance online.

STEP 3: Calculate your net worth.

To finalize the calculation of your net worth, total the value of all assets listed. Then total the value of all liabilities listed. Once you have completed these calculations, subtract the total value of your liabilities from the total value of your assets. The resulting number is an approximation of your current net worth.

At this stage, it is critical that you be completely honest with yourself on the value of your assets and make sure you have created a comprehensive list of all debts. The first time you see this number in black and white, you may be startled or disappointed. The idea here is not to cast you into deep despair, but to see where you are today and to provide a benchmark to measure against in the future. Place a date on the statement you have just created and be prepared to create a new statement every three to six months. You will be amazed at how quickly you can make meaningful progress when you have become committed to following the path to financial fitness.”

Contains excerpts from Applied Principle 5, Money for Life, by Steven B Smith

Applied Principles #5 – Be prepared to change your thinking

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Money for Life Applied Principle #5 – Be prepared to change your thinking

Starting something new often takes a few adjustments in the way you think or act.  A new diet may require different shopping, cooking and eating habits.  The same is true for implementing a new budgeting or spending management program.  You will need to adjust the way you think about money and spending.

“Albert Einstein once said, “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.”  If you want to become financially fit, you need to be prepared to think differently than you have in the past. You have to be prepared to look at things differently than society does.”

Adjusting your thinking isn’t always an easy thing to do.  It will take determination and discipline, as well as dedication. Most importantly perhaps though is a willingness to learn and keeping an open mind.

“If you are prepared to adjust your thinking, you will begin to see solutions where before you only saw problems. You will be able to learn from the experiences of others-both good and bad. Ultimately, you must be prepared and willing to incorporate new thinking into your financial life. As you do, you will make substantial progress toward becoming financially fit.”

It’s important to remember that change takes time.  Don’t expect everything to change overnight. Don’t get frustrated and give yourself some time to adjust to new budgeting methods and new ways of thinking about your money and your spending.

Contains excerpts from Applied Principle 5, Money for Life, by Steven B Smith

Getting Help

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Getting Help

Sometimes even after completing the Money for Life Coaching Program users will have questions about how to handle certain transactions, what to do about an error message, etc.  Or perhaps they just need a refresher on a certain topic like creating cash transactions.

There are several help resources available for Mvelopes Members –

First there are the Tutorials.  A link to the Tutorials can be found in the tool bar at the top of the Mvelopes application window.

Second we have the Member Support Interface.  This page can be accessed directly from the Mvelopes application by clicking on the Support Icon in the toolbar at the top of the application window, or from the Mvelopes website by clicking on Support in the website menu once you login.   Within the support interface you can access live chat, email a question, or search the knowledgebase.  Simply enter the topic you are searching for (i.e. credit card payments, split transactions, etc) and the interface will pull up a list of references for that topic.  References may include training videos or detailed instructions of how to do something.

On the Mvelopes website you will also find access to the Mvelopes Blog or Community pages.  Within the Mvelopes Community page you can access Money Tips, Money Mistakes, Articles, Mvelopes Forum, Join a Group, or Get a Mentor.  The Mvelopes Forum is a great resource that allows Mvelopes Members to help each other.  You can join in a discussion that is already taking place, or you can start a new topic in order to seek advice from other Mvelopes users.

Members can also follow Mvelopes on Twitter or Facebook to receive the latest on product updates, tips and tricks, links to articles, or blog updates.

Jennifer Streiff, Money for Life Coach

-Photo courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/52280188@N07

Applied Principle 4 – Becoming Truly Committed

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APPLIED PRINCIPLE 4 – Becoming Truly Committed

In order to facilitate change you must be truly committed to doing what is necessary to make it happen.  There are 3 basic steps to the process of making a committed change.

Step 1 is to write it down. “The first step is to actually write down the things to which you are committing. What are the specific areas you would like to improve?

These could include:

  • No longer living paycheck to paycheck
  • Reducing or eliminating consumer debt
  • Saving for long-term spending requirements, including retirement
  • Being able to travel without going into debt
  • Paying cash for your next vehicle purchase
  • Having money set aside for emergencies
  • Creating and living within a balanced spending plan
  • Only purchasing those things you can truly afford
  • Working together with your spouse to achieve financial goals
  • Eliminating the fear, uncertainty, and doubt surrounding financial management
  • Having the peace and happiness that comes from knowing you are financially fit”

These goals will help you focus your efforts proactively as you learn about additional financial principles.

If you are part of a couple, an important part of this process is to make sure you are on the same page. Working together with your partner will help you both be more successful and help you to build a stronger financial future together.

“Most couples who are financially fit have applied the principle of becoming committed and facing financial fitness obstacles together. Without the commitment of both parties, it is often impossible to move forward in a positive way. Many couples come from vastly different financial backgrounds, and often, the environment you grew up in is the primary contributor to your attitudes toward money.

While it is often not easy to get on the same financial page, it is very important. You can start by finding common ground surrounding the financial issues that are causing friction, frustration, stress, or the avoidance of proactive financial planning. From there, you can move to developing mutually important financial goals. Finally, it is important to agree to work together to achieve these goals. One person pulling the other along eventually will become tiresome and prove frustrating. Two people pulling in the opposite direction will both give up and quit altogether. However, two people pulling in the same direction have a high likelihood of successfully achieving their goals.”

Step 2 is to properly prepare by making a list of the obstacles that may get in your way.  Think about the challenges that you have faced in the past and the things that have derailed you from reaching your financial goals.

“True commitment will always be tested by the unexpected. No matter how well you plan, something unexpected will inevitably arise. At these times, the truly committed will keep going in their planned direction, while others will sit down and seek an easier path. One of the keys to successfully navigating the tough spots is to make a list of the obstacles that may steer you away from financial fitness. This way, you will be better equipped to climb over or avoid them altogether. Anticipating these obstacles is not easy, but if you take a good look at past experience, you can successfully determine most of the pitfalls. These may include unexpected events, temptation to keep up with the purchasing habits of neighbors and coworkers, or invitations to participate in unplanned social outings or travel. By listing these obstacles, you can prepare mentally to address them as they arise. It is a rocky reality that you will be less able to meet commitments until you have prepared reasonable contingencies to cope with all possible obstacles.”

Step 3 is simply to make it happen.  Take action and move forward.

“True commitment propels you to action. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “We can have anything we want. All we have to do is pay the price and take it.” Well-directed persistence based on proper planning will combat any degree of aimlessness. Sometimes, worthwhile things come easily, but they usually require dedicated and consistent effort. In the case of achieving true long-term financial fitness, there are no quick fixes and no magic pills. However, if you are truly committed, in as little as 12 weeks, you can be well on your way to reaching your financial goals. Now is the time to get started.”

Contains excerpts from Applied Principle 4, Money for Life, by Steven B Smith

Applied Principle 3 – Sincere desire is the second step on the path.

Applied Prinapplied_principles_03.gifciple 3 – Sincere desire is the second step on the path.

In order to really make a change in your financial future, you must first have a sincere desire to change the outcome. “The battle to become physically fit is waged and won in the mind before it is waged and won in the gym. Likewise, the battle to become financially fit is fought in mental terms before it is fought in terms of the checkbook. Real change always starts from the inside. Sincere desire fuels the engine of change; without it, sustained change cannot occur.”

It’s not easy to change. Discipline and dedication are both needed. “To gauge your level of conviction, ask yourself what you would like to change most about your current financial situation. Are you tired of having become a source of significant contention and frustration in your relationship? Do financial worries seem to upend the happiness associated with every other aspect of your life? Does the burden of debt limit your ability to do the things you would like to do? Are you constantly concerned about how you will find the resources to retire comfortably?”

Once you have established that you sincerely want to change your financial life you will be able to make progress.  “If you truly desire to change your financial course, you will not waste time with avoidance tactics, such as complaining about your situation or making excuses for past behavior. You cannot rewrite history-dwelling on previous mistakes and placing blame will only keep you focused on the negative.”

“Sincere desire will keep you thinking of the positive, looking forward to a future that is free of financial burden. The greatest poverty is the poverty of desire. Ultimately, no one can help you until you’ve decided you’re ready for it.”

The decision to change can be stressful, and it will not be easy, but you will find success if it is what you truly want.  Use that desire to help you take proactive steps toward the changes that you want to make.

Applied Principle 3, Money for Life, by Steven B Smith