October Technical Report

Computer Hassle

October started with a computer repair. For months I had been getting a hard drive failure message, but I was still able to boot up my all-in-one. I knew the drive wouldn’t last long, so I bought an external drive and made a weekly backup. Rom helped me locate a replacement hard drive – available locally, off-the-shelf! – and he installed it. So fine to have in-home tech support! Now that the PC is running smoothly, I realize how bad it was before.

I still prefer a PC for blogging, spreadsheets, money management, consumer research, and photo organizing and editing. But my newer phone has replaced my tablet, even for reading e-books. At the public library where I work, we are finding more people get by with just a smart phone and wifi (or a small data plan), so they come to the library to create documents (like resumes), fill out government forms, and do all their printing.

I have a colour inkjet printer. I rarely use it and the ink tanks are expensive. So, I do all my printing at the library now, too! The library charges 10 cents a page including tax while Staples charges 13 cents. If I need to do any edits, the use of a library computer is free, and staff help is available – whereas at Staples, you pay for computer time and for staff assistance! (Their self-service is just that). For a recent trip, I emailed my flight itinerary and other details to myself and printed it at the library. When I go to concerts and events locally, I display tickets on my phone, but when travelling, I make a print copy “just in case.”

The reason I have an all-in-one PC instead of a laptop is that I spent so much time on the computer for my blog and volunteer work that I developed tennis elbow, and I needed an ergonomically correct work station at home. (I have recovered!)

I am enjoying the new Screen Time feature in iOS 12 which tells me how much time I use the phone each day and for what; the PC equivalent is a free product like RescueTime.

Budget Planning

Several large annual bills are due every October. Once they are paid, I sort out my finances for the rest of the year and plan for the next. This year I have done more financial forecasting and cashflow planning, but it is still cumbersome.

To save some time, I pay all monthly household bills and charitable contributions by automatic withdrawal (some are recurring credit card charges, which I do for the cash-back rewards). I pay 3 once-a-year bills through online banking. There is an option to pay these monthly, but interest or service charges apply, so I choose to save the money and pay them manually annually 😊 I save a monthly amount for each of these bills, then pay them in full when they’re due.

I am trying to end the year with enough “advance” money on hand to pay these large bills up front, without having to do the monthly saving. This means making double payments to myself so I can be a year ahead. It is hard to get to that point at my current spending level (see last post!) but some of my other expenses have lessened, so I have a chance.

My “lifestyle” is stable right now since we know we have two long-distance trips/vacations each year (to see family in Toronto and in Sussex UK) and there are no big financial outlays in the works – the car is new, the house is in good shape, and we have national health care! For which I happily pay my taxes.

This month I tried another personal finance app, Wally. It’s free and has lots of features. You input transactions rather than drawing them down from your bank accounts, a security feature I like. You can use your phone GPS to automatically enter where you made a purchase. I’d recommend it. Inconveniently, it can’t split transactions – everything I buy on one grocery shopping trip has to be categorized under one heading such as groceries, rather than several (such as groceries, paper goods, personal care and pet supplies) – or I would have to enter them as 4 separate “transactions.” I can give a transaction several tags, but not specify an amount for each tag. There is a feature called “split transactions” but that is to share a bill among friends. Some additional features are available for a fee of less than $1/month per. These include some things I find essential such as advanced categories, recurring reminders, currency conversion and customized savings goals. To make all this work for me, I’d need to pay about $4/month. I will continue for now and decide on subscriptions by January 1. In general, it is more for tracking spending than for budgeting – it will tell you what you spent, but it doesn’t set category goals and limits.

Ultimately, I still need my spreadsheets for seeing the big picture and for tracking investments. I doubt I’ll ever have an all-in-one solution, but it is definitely useful to have something on my phone so I can make better decisions “on the go.”

In light of the current state of the stock market, my annual returns on investments have tanked. I made a bad “default” decision this year. I had a bank GIC (Guaranteed Investment Certificate) at 1.5%. It came up for renewal and I missed the opportunity to move the money into something that paid better. It automatically renewed at a worse rate of 0.9%! I usually review my investments with my financial advisor once a year, but the GIC renewal date was at mid-year, so I didn’t scrutinize it. I have set a reminder for when it comes up for renewal next time.

Meanwhile I have decided to open another TFSA (tax free savings account) at an online bank because their rates are so much better than the physical ones. Instead of 0.9, I can get 2.9 at Tangerine, so it’s a no-brainer. Due to the precipitous drop in the markets, my ETFs and mutual funds have been averaging worse than that over the past 12 months.

My response to below-average returns is not to take greater risks (given my age) but to avoid panic selling and to SAVE MORE.

What electronic devices do you use? Have you made any changes to your computer and phone use this year?

Are you planning major budget or investment strategy changes for next year?

I have no affiliation with Wally or Tangerine and receive no compensation or free products from them.

9 comments

  1. My PC is almost nine years old (purchased in February 2010) and still runs on Windows 7. It’s always been hardy and dependable, but I’m starting to worry that it’s going to randomly stop working one of these days due to its age. The printer that I purchased back in 2010 died this summer. That, I replaced immediately and at very little expense. (A printer is a must for me; I create and mail invoices weekly for my business.) I’m hoping that if/when the time comes, I’ll be able to find an equally inexpensive (and efficient!) replacement for my computer.

  2. Karen

    As soon as I make a big once a year payment i.e. insurance or taxes, I divide it by 12 and put that amount in a special account and the money is there when it comes due again. I do the same for home and car repair and vacations.

  3. I mainly use my phone and iPad mini. I pull my laptop out only when I have to (major bill paying, anything that involves a lot of typing, and downloading photos). For general surfing and reading ebooks, I prefer the iPad. I upgraded my phone recently from an iPhone 5 to an iphone 7. The new phone is so much more usable that I’m definitely using it more. It’s amazing!

  4. I have a PC too and a laptop but could not cope doing anything on a tiny phone! I have a program called Microsoft Money installed but they discontinued selling the software in 2002 I think (mine is 2000). There are no updates for it anymore or any support available but it hardly needs anything anyway. I just hope it will continue as I could not find any other program I liked that came close to what this one does. I can split down receipts quite easily – which other programs don’t do and run any number of reports.
    I am not even sure how DH managed to install a version onto my new computer we must have a multiple license disk as you cannot download it now.

    • I still use Microsoft Money too! The final “sunset” version is available as a free download from Microsoft:
      https://www.microsoft.com/en-ca/download/details.aspx?id=20738
      When I replaced my hard drive, I was able to reinstall it easily. I keep trying apps in the hopes of finding a mobile product that will replace Money, but I have never found one. I doubt if I will, because people who are on the go with their phones just don’t want or need the level of tracking that I do. When I got my new phone, I chose the largest “phablet” size so it serves as a cross between a phone and a tablet.

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