Graduated Learning: Life after College

I got my degree, I got a job…now what? The Foursquare of Personal Finance September 26, 2011

Filed under: Personal Finance — Stephanie @ 11:18 pm
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[Edit:  September 21, 2015.  Hadn’t checked out Payoff in awhile, have noticed that they have changed their site significantly.  It appears they now focus on helping pay off high interest bills by providing loans at lower interest rates (compared to what your other debts may be).  I have not tried out this new Payoff, as I am not paying off any high interest debts.  If anyone has tried it, let me know what you think of it.  Also, noticed this post references Adaptu, which is no longer in existence.  And while LearnVest is still around, I can’t find any reference to My Money Center.  I guess things change in the money-tracking business!]

I’m a big fan of trying out personal finance tools (please don’t call me a personal finance tool).

Most of you know about  That seems to be one of the top sites among personal finance people (and “normal” people :P).  But there are A LOT account aggregators out there that let you import your accounts and track things.  They’re all a little different, and each have their own features and flaws.

Of all those sites, I’ve tried quite a few.  There’s, of course.  More recently, I’ve been trying out LearnVest‘s new My Money Center.  And I’m also testing out Adaptu.  I’ll try to fully review those sites at a later time.

So, let’s get to the main topic of this post:

Like most of these account aggregators, once you sign up, you can enter your login info for your assorted accounts:  Credit cards, checking/saving accounts, loans (auto, student, mortgage, personal).  Don’t worry, like most other aggregators, they are very serious about security of your data.

A big part of Payoff’s system is setting goals.  You can set any number of goals, big or small.  Then link an account with that goal.   By working towards those goals, and doing other financially smart things, like finding out your credit score and saving up an emergency fun, you earn badges.  And for every badge you earn, you get an entry into their weekly Sur-prize drawing.  It’s a chance to win $15-25, just for being smart with your money!

So, what do I like about

  • It’s free!  Always a good start when you’re trying to take control of your finances!  (As with many free sites, they have recommendations of accounts and websites to check out, but you’re not obligated to click on anything.  They’re just suggestions)
  • The gamification of personal finance encourages users to be smart with their money and achieve their goals
  • There’s a page for every badge.  Each page provides advice and guidance for how you can earn that badge, including next steps and links to related posts on the Payoff Blog.
  • The website is very playful and fun:
    • It’s fun to earn the badges, and the badges themselves have fun names, descriptions, and icons.    Look how many badges I’ve earned so far!
    •  The Sur-prizes are an awesome…well, surprise!  I actually won one a week or so ago!  It felt really good to be rewarded for doing good things with my money!
    • When there’s an error message, they show the background image upside down.  And when the site is down for maintenance, they show a night-time version of the background scene, with the message “Ssshhh! We’re taking a nap! Don’t worry. We should be awake and ready to play again in a little bit.”  That being said, I’ve only seen the down for maintenance page once at an ungodly hour when I shouldn’t have been awake.
  • They are very responsive to feedback.  I have tweeted @payoff a lot, and they respond really quickly!
  • They’ll categorize your expenses for you.  At first, I was wary of this, but so far, they seem to be doing pretty well with it.

So, are there any downsides?

  • Because the focus is on building up your savings and paying off your debt, there’s not as much of an emphasis on retirement accounts.  In fact, it looks like they don’t currently support retirement accounts in their account managers (they don’t have companies like Fidelity or Vanguard).
  • The expenses categorization isn’t always right.  And there currently isn’t a way to edit the categories (that I know of).
  • While it does show where you spend the most money, there aren’t a lot of budgeting tools.

Overall?  I don’t think I’d make it my only account manager.  I like the fuller capabilities of Mint.  But I do find myself more motivated to payoff my loans when I know I could get a badge for it!  And I think that it is really great for people just starting out on their personal finance journey.  It’s a simple site to use, and it provides positive reinforcement!

What about you?  Have you tried out  What do you think of it?

p.s. I was not compensated for this post.  While I did win a Sur-Prize a few weeks back, that was unrelated to my decision to write about  In fact, I’d been thinking about writing this for a while, but I wanted to spend some time fully checking it out.


I paid off my car loan! October 19, 2010

Filed under: Personal Finance — Stephanie @ 6:09 pm
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You may recall that, a little over 2 years ago, I bought a car.  I had gotten a new job that I was going to need to drive to (no direct public transportation route).  So, between asking around, reading my consumer reports, and doing a few test drives, I decided on my car.

But how was I going to pay for said car?  I didn’t really have enough in savings.  Well, maybe I did, but then my savings would be completely depleted, and I wasn’t too keen on that.  So I tried to figure out where my loan could come from.  This was back in 2008, when people were still buying cars.  In fact, I’m pretty sure it was at the boom where everyone was looking for a fuel-efficient car, due to the ridiculously high gas prices.  So, unless I was going to buy a Hummer or some other gas guzzler, I wasn’t going to get a cushy 0% financing through the dealer.  In fact, when I asked them about their financing, they actually couldn’t compete with the rate that I was pre-approved for.  I had gotten my loan from a local credit union through AAA.  It wasn’t the best deal, but 4.49% was as good as I was going to get.  Yes, I could have bought a used car.  Yes, I could have looked harder for a better loan, tried harder for a better deal, or used up my savings instead.  But I didn’t.  I wanted a new car because I knew it would get good gas mileage, be safer, and I was going to drive it for as long as possible.  And yes, car loans are cheaper now, and I have enough money now, but I was in a bind at the time.

I hated having a car loan.  I wanted to get rid of it.  It was my highest interest rate loan (since my student loan rates kept dropping), and I wanted it gone.  But I was a bit uncomfortable getting rid of all that debt without having a good amount of money in savings.  So I made a deal with myself:  I’d save up for two years of expenses, then I’d pay off my car loan.  Mathematically, that doesn’t make the most sense:  the interest I earn on savings isn’t as high as what I’m paying on my loan.  Psychologically, though, it makes perfect sense for me.  Still, I set a goal in my mint account to get my savings to the magical 2 years expenses goal, and waited.

So, October 2nd, I transferred money from my ING savings to my ING checking, and then had ING checking mail out a check.  The check went out October 4th.  A few days later, I logged into the credit union account, and my loan account was GONE!  And that’s it.  I PAID OFF MY CAR LOAN!

Doing all the calculations, it turns out paying 3 years early saved me only $753.52 in interest.  I was informed when I signed the loan that financing for 5 years would cost me $2109.70 in interest.  This also means I ended up “wasting” $1356.18 in interest.  I feel a little silly about that.  But what’s done is done.  Lesson learned.  Moral of the story:  Don’t take out a loan if you don’t have to.  And my hope and plan is to never take out a loan for a car ever again.

Still, paying off my loan feels absolutely awesome.  I’m really excited about my personal finance plans.  Watch out, student loans, you’re next!


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