Tracking Personal Spending & Online MMA Bank

As we do some personal financial planning, I wanted to share the results of any in-depth research I do so you can profit from it too. I always wonder exactly how much we spend on various categories of miscellaneous stuff. We use Quicken, but we never enter minor expanses or save receipts. Well, we just got a Neat Receipts. It automatically scans any receipts and doubles as a full size 600dpi scanner. The software is very intellegent (optical character recognition, auto-rotate, internet receipt recognition database). It auto categorizes things like food vs clothes vs bills, and can tell what card you used to pay for something. It can sort by Rebecca's vs my spending, and feeds data to Excel, Quicken, MS Money, or QuickBooks. The portable scanner is a tiny thin thing, but large enough to feed an 8.5" paper of any length. Word of warning: It IS a color scanner, but the device is NOT good enough for photos. It feels like 10 bit color or something. I went in search of an account to keep minimally funded to cover business expenses and receive business reimbursements, to separate those from my personal account. I put in some buffer money, and long term, this buffer amount should be the average balance. I pay off the corporate card from it, and receive my employer's expense reimbursements via direct deposit. I have about $4K of business expenses per month, so I wanted to make a little interest on the buffer and when there's a surplus. For this purpose, I decided on a NetBank account. NetBank is the larget internet-only bank. A money-market savings account returns 2.6% annually and has an average minimum balance of $100. Paying the Corporate AMEX online is easy and free. If for some reason I need to make other deposits or withdrawls, it's easy. I can write checks from it, optionally get an ATM card, and I can make deposits via prepaid envelopes that they supply, or free at any UPS Store. There is a 6 withdrawl per month limit. For more localized research on bank rates for loans and other personal investments like CDs and MMAs, cheout out BankRate. For high yield online MMAs, besides NetBank, I've heard good things about ING Direct as well. Coming topics will focus on tax-advantaged saving and paying for graduate school, which in the end for both of us going back for 2 years together, will cost just around $180K. Yikes.

So... Uhhhh

Blog brainstorm Excuses: Moving, wedding planning, new job. - Change Blog title and Style Sheet Blog about: - Ultimate USB drive project - Leapfrom wireless audio - Researching internet-only banks with higher returns, educational saving research - Post best pics from Belieze Sailing trip - Southbeach - I want my maid back - Fun with Auditor linux distribution on CD - Rant about returning to corporate world: "Business Bullshit: On Denial of Inane Work, And The Search for the Cheeky Colorful Consulting Metaphor" Haven't been all web-lazy. Check out the wedding website. http://www.rebeccaandjeff.com And we'll help Google index Rae and Chad's new blog by linking: http://www.TeamGemo.net

Engagement Video and Goodbye Guate

It's been a long time since we put anything new up on the blog because we are winding down the year, packing our bags, and saying goodbye to good friends, a year of inseparability, and a frustrating, beautiful country. In a way you could say we came here to start our life together. In honor of that, I finally finished the full length (30 minute) and abbreviated (2 min) engagement videos from our engagement on November 26, 2004. The full story is detailed here. It’s very hard to say goodbye, I’m done here, pack up and change everything. But it’s very easy to say that our tight group of friends (8 of us) are flying to Belize tomorrow morning on private planes, renting a 40 foot sailboat, and sailing from island to island for a week. We return to Chicago on Friday the 15th, find an apartment, then on Monday I fly out to Richmond, Virginia to work on a project with Deloitte for a bank. Rebecca will be teaching 3rd grade in both English and Spanish at Westdale Elementary in Melrose Park Fijense que... audios.

Now Hiring

LinkedIn is a great concept for hiring through referrals, even referrals you never knew you could get. I decided to post the following opening on LinkedIn (also because the first month was free): Title: CIO / Technology Director Company: Colegio Interamericano Type: Full-time Experience: Associate to Mid/Senior level Function: Information Technology Industry: Primary/Secondary Education Location: Guatemala City (Guatemala) Salary: USD $20,000 + housing Date Posted: May 26, 2005
K-12 School District of 1400 students and 150 employees seeks a CIO to manage IT Department and make all technology decisions. Technology department is 4 FTE, supports 250 devices, and manages 8 web/DB apps. Key technologies in use include Server 2003 AD, SQL Server, Basic PHP/Web authoring. 2-4 years experience including IT project management required. English must be your first language, and rudimentary Spanish is helpful but not required. Applicants from IT departments, engineering, and management/IT consulting are preferred. Work experience in educational institutions is valued. The school is an American School in Guatemala City, Guatemala (pop. 3M) where English is spoken 90% of the time. There is a vibrant social community of young American and Canadian teachers. Relocation benefits, full medical, and corporate housing with utilities are provided above salary. The $20,000 salary in the context of the local economy has the purchasing power of about $30,000 in most US cities. This is a one year contract, and should be viewed as a short-term international business experience.
I had the surprising experience of receiving applications from two CIOs of Fortune 500 companies, names you would definitely recognize (but I omit here). I emailed one and called the other wondering if it was some sort of mid-life crisis, and tried to politely inform them I thought they might be overqualified. That's when the miscommunication became clear: They thought the compensation was monthly. I am a Dilbert cartoon.

Miscellaneous Pictures

2yrs.JPG Dinner at Ponza Verde for our 2-year anniversary. girlsofguate.JPG The girls out at dinner twins.JPG Old man twins - always a hit at parties finaceabuse.JPG Sometimes I make Beck do someting dumb so I can take a picture. Then she gives me my favorite "I'm not amused" look.

Coffe Farm and Museum

This weekend we went to the Azotea Coffe Museum in Antigua. It was fascinating, and we couldn't believe that our group of friends had never heard of it before. It was a very well done museum, and I had no idea the coffee production process was so fascinating. Starbucks buys a lot of it's finest Arabian beans from this exact farm in Antigua (actually, all the best coffe in Guatemala is exported, so the stuff we drink here is fresh but not amazing). sepia.JPG If you've ever seen "fair trade coffee" or understand that debate, this is where it's origins are: CoffeBreakdown.JPG Although this side of the debate wasn't presented at the museum, I have previously heard a rumor that fair trade coffee is a case study in why you shouldn't screw with natural economics. The numbers in the graph above explain why people wanted to treat the original farms better (workers were complaining) - so they artificially added $.05 per dollar kickback to the producing farms. This fair and generous left-leaning philosophy's proponents were also environmentalists. The price tampering caused many more people to get into the coffee farming business in Guatemala. These people over-farmed the land and would slash-and-burn rainforrest to make new coffee farms. Oversupply then depressed base prices further.

Orchid Sanctuary

If you've seen the movie Adaptation, you know there's something extremely special about orchids. In Coban there is an orchid sanctuary that hosts rare orchids, some so uncommon that only 50 known specimins exist in the world. The national flower of Guatemala, the Monja Blanca, is a rare orchid that costs up to $600 to buy off the black market from an orchid hunter. orchid1.jpg This one is very similar to the Monja Blanca. orchid2.jpgorchid5.jpgorchid3.jpgorchid.jpg

Totally need to unload my stress

Life sucks. I work in some of the nastiest, third-world conditions you can conjure to imagination. I like to think there are literally little turds walking the hallways near me. I feel underappreciated, and nobody wants or seems to even need my services. I’m tired of being the last thought on anyone’s mind, despite my obvious attachment to this place. When people around here guess my age they always grimace to try to soften the blow to my ego. I’m simply inflamed and poisonous right now. I demand atttention. I am Rebecca’s appendix, and I am very angry. So they did it, those bastards. "Cut off from society." The cliché idiomatic form of the phrase is like a saltine cracker, to me it disseminates normalcy and dolor. I look like this: Click to see in a new window I’m through, out, Elvis, finito; wither in pain, cruel host world.

Half Marathon

We ran the Coban International Half Marathon two weekends ago. It wasn't pretty, but the goal was to finish, and we're just happy to be done with the training schedule. Notwithstanding the altitude, it's a difficult half marathon because the majority of the course is hills. So happy it's over finish.jpg Crossing the finish line timeedit.jpg I'm a multimedia teacher; I have the right to photoshop...