Author Archives: curreri

Restoring Factory Defaults to the Cisco ASA 5505 Firewall via the ASDM

If you have been mucking around in your Cisco ASA5505 and want to return to factory defaults using the ASDM management software, it’s pretty easy.

If you can’t use the ASDM, I have also have a write up for Resetting the Cisco asa 5505 Using the Console.

  1. Click the “Wizards” drop down menu and select “Startup Wizard…”
  2. Change the radio button to “Reset configuration to factory defaults.”
  3. I suggest changing the management IP. This will change the subnet of devices behind the firewall. This is useful if you ever have to put another firewall device behind this device as some consumer grade devices make it a pain to change the internal subnet. You can use any non-routable IP, such as 192.168.x.1 where x is 1-254.
  4. Click “Yes.”
  5. After a few minutes, I got a status message with an ERROR. This is because the ASDM is trying to manage the device using the old IP.
  6. Close the ASDM without saving, renew you DHCP lease and log in using the ASDM to the new address.
  7. This doesn’t seem to reset the Enable password, so you’ll have to use that to login.

Using the Cisco ASA 5505 as a VPN server with the Cisco VPN Client software

This walkthrough will describe how to use your Cisco ASA5505 as a VPN server for a remote client. The remote client doe not need to have an 5505 as a VPN endpoint, it only needs to have the Cisco VPN Client software installed.

To configure the ASA5505, first log into it using the Cisco ASDM.

  1. Click the “Wizards” drop down, select “VPN Wizard.”
  2. Select “Remote Access,” click Next.
  3. Select “Cisco VPN Client,” click Next
  4. Select “Pre-shared key,” then fill in what I’m going to call your “VPN Connection Password.” This will be saved in the client and should be as long and secure as possible.
  5. Tunnel Group Name: Enter what I’m going to call your “VPN Connection Username,” and Click Next.
  6. Select “Authenticate using the local user database,” click Next.
  7. Create a username and password for each VPN user, click Next.
  8. Click “New…” to create a new VPN IP pool. You can do whatever you want here, but here is my suggestion:
    • Name: VPNUsers
    • Starting IP Address: 192.168.15.194
    • Ending IP Address: 192.168.15.220
    • Subnet Mask: 255.255.255.224
    • Click “OK.”
  9. Click Next.
  10. Fill in DNS and WINS for your outside network and Click Next.
  11. IKE Policy defaults are fine, click Next.
  12. IPSec defaults are fine, click Next.
  13. Leave NAT Settings blank, but check “Enable Split tunneling” at the bottom and click Next.
  14. Click Finish.

One more step, without this you won’t be able to connect to anything besides the internal network when you are connected to the VPN.

  1. Click “Configuration” at the top of the screen.
  2. Click “VPN” on the left side of the screen.
  3. Under “General,” click “Group Policy.”
  4. Click the Group Policy that corresponds to the one you defined during the Wizard, and click the Edit button.
  5. Click the Client Configuration Tab.
  6. Click the “Manage” button next to Split Tunnel Network List.
  7. Double click the Entry under the Standard ACL tab.
  8. Change the IP address and Netmask to match that of your internal network, the subnet where your servers are located.
  9. Click OK, OK, OK and finally: Apply.

Now that we’ve done all that, we should save it from working memory into the flash. I like to do a reboot while I do this, and we can do it using the Cisco ASDM!

  1. Click Tools and select System Reload.
  2. Be sure to change the radio button at the top to Save the running configuration at the time of reload.
  3. Click “Schedule Reload,” Yes, and Exit ASDM.

To connect your new VPN, you’ll need the Cisco VPN Client. I’m using version 4.6.

  1. Install the Cisco VPN Client.
  2. Click “New.”
    • Connection Entry: Name of the VPN connection. I used the same thing I put in for the Tunnel Group Name (VPN Connection Username), but you can use whatever you want.
    • Host: The IP address or DNS name of the VPN Server.
    • On the Authentication Tab, make sure “Group Authentication” is selected.
    • Name: Put whatever you put for Tunnel Group Name (VPN Connection Username).
    • Password: put in your “Pre-shared Key” VPN (Connection password).
      That’s it! Hit Save.

To connect, double-click the connection entry you just created.
Enter your username and password, which we defined users on the Cisco ASA5505 device during the VPN Wizard.

Done and Done!

A Nice Note From My Supervisor

I went home sick yesterday, which is pretty unusual; I take sick time so rarely I actually have over 250 hours of sick leave right now. When I came in this morning I found this nice handwritten note from my supervisor:

Anthony,

Sorry you’re not feeling well. But just a quick “Thank you” for putting on a StarLab hat and driving the van on Tuesday. I appreciate your help and your always upbeat attitude. 🙂 Have a good weekend —

Deb

That’s a nice way to start a Friday!

PS, I literally put on a StarLab hat. They had hats made with their logo!

Things to do in the Seattle area

City of Seattle: Urban things to do in any weather.

  1. Space Needle. Costs a lot to go up, but it’s nice. There is a restaurant up there too, but I don’t recommend that.
  2. Smith Tower. Much cheaper to go up. Arguably a cooler view than from the Space Needle too.
  3. Monorail. It’s only goes between the Space Needle and downtown, but it’s fun.
  4. Pike Place Market. Seattle’s Pride and Joy, a fully functional public market in the heart of downtown. It’s OLD, and most famous for the ‘flying fish’. The fish vendors toss fish to each other to scare and wow the crowd. They have fresh fruit and veggies, flowers, nick knacks and souvenir’s. Well, you name it actually. There’s a piroshky place, bakery’s, knife shop, nuts, used left-wing book store. All of it little mom and pop shops in perfect Seattle fashion. Except with one notable difference…
  5. First Starbucks shop, Located in Pike Place Market! Not terribly interested in itself, but if you’re there anyway it’s cool to check out the original (less sexually inhibited) logo.
  6. Ye Olde Curiosity Shop. Located down on the waterfront, mostly just sells souvenirs, but they have certain curiosities on display, like shrunken heads, mummies and a whale penis. Has kind of an old timey charm. You’ll likely want to check out the waterfront anyway!
  7. Archie McPhee sells a random assortment of very strange items. Where else can you buy a Friedrich Nietzsche action figure, The Last Supper After Dinner Mints, and Bacon Floss?
  8. Seattle Underground Tour. Literally a tour of Seattle’s Underground. Like the city beneath downtown, turns out they built the city in a pretty dumb way. Makes fun of Seattle and Tacoma, gives a historical account of the city that is funny. I like this tour, I’ve done it so many times that they last time I went they asked if I wanted a second job as tour guide!
  9. Local music scene. The Stranger has show listings some bands have links to listen to a track or two online. Also check out the KEXP Events Tab
  10. Plays, of all production values. Again, check the Stranger listings.
  11. Art shows, especially gallery openings. You guessed it, check the Stranger listings.

Museums!

  1. Seattle Art Museum (SAM). Locations downtown and on capitol hill.
  2. Frye Art Museum. 19th and 20th centure European and American paintings.
  3. Henry Art Gallery.  This is on the University of Washington campus and is packed with modern and contemporary art.
  4. Chihuly Garden and Glass. Famous local blown glass exhibit.
  5. Burke Museum. Also at the University of Washington, exhibits present and natural history of the Pacific Northwest, including local Native American art and dinosaurs.
  6. EMP Museum. Experience Music Project: featuring things like artist’s broken guitars and stage costumes and first-run album covers.  There are also rooms where you can try playing instruments first-hand.  There is also a science fiction wing with some movie props and first run novels.
  7. Boeing Flight Museum.  Look at airplanes and stuff.  Wait, there’s this thing too?  I’m confused.
  8. Museum of History & Industry (MOHAI). Seattle’s story of the 1800’s to the present.  It’s right on Lake Union!
  9. Pacific Science Center. Makes science innovating and accessible.  Great for kids!

 

Outdoorsy, things in or near Seattle to do when it’s nice.

  1. Olympic Sculpture Park. This is actually a Seattle Art Museum location. A few good art installations, but mostly the park is just pretty.
  2. Play golf!  Or, at least go to a driving range.  There’s a golf driving range right at the University of Washington.
  3. Eat some delicious mexican food, then go kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding at Agua Verde Cafe and Paddle Club.
  4. Ride the Ducks Tour. Basically you drive around the city then putt around Lake Union. Seems kind of lame to me, but I bet some people thinks it’s a blast. Heck, if you’re really into it I’ll try it.
  5. Parasailing. Leaves from downtown. I went in the Bahamas and they tie you to this parachute and drag you behind the boat. You are riding a kite basically! OH That reminds me, I’m adding another bullet below.
  6. Go fly a Kite! There is a hill at Gas Works Park, that has a great view of downtown and is known for kite flying. The wind comes racing down the canal and all funnels onto this hill. We could fly kites!
  7. Wine Tours. Chateau Ste. Michelle has a good tour. Red Hook Brewery is there too, they have good food but I haven’t toured them yet.
  8. Son of a beach! Golden Gardens is a pretty good beach nearby (in Ballard), and Alki Beach Park (in West Seattle), has very nice with a view of downtown.  Actually, if you don’t care about a beach but do want a free view of downtown, check out Kerry Park!
  9. Olympic Peninsula. Take the ferry across the sound to the peninsula (you can drive your car on these giant parking garage boats). Then take 101 around the Olympic peninsula, stopping in on the rain forest.
  10. Driving along the Columbia river (hwy 30 I think?) on the way to the ocean. Something I want to do.
  11. Multnomah Falls. Nice hike and scenic falls.
  12. Snoqualmie Falls, also a pretty waterfall, this one is bigger in spring than fall and was featured in the 80’s TV drama Twin Peaks.
  13. Hiking Mt. Rainier, specifically the Sunrise hike, before the sun rises, in perfect darkness, you hike for 2 hours up to a certain peak that faces Rainier. Then the sun slowly rises over your back, illuminating the giant mountain in front of you for the first time, from the top down. I’ve never done it, but it sounds awesome.
  14. Hike Dorothy Lake.
  15. Mt St. Helens. So this mountain like, exploded and stuff. It’s a pretty drive in. There are still visible downed trees and no one rebuilt nearby, so it’s a lonely wilderness thing with a huge collection of people at one end. Feels like The Restaurant At The End of the Universe. These reviews are getting a little too avant-garde, sorry ’bout that. Mt. St. Helens is actually not that exciting.
  16. Take the Washington State ferry from Anacortes to Friday Harbor in the San Juans, then grab a whale watching or kayak tour!
  17. Visit Vancouver BC or Portland, OR.

 

My favorite places to eat in Seattle

  1. Coffee. Tea. So many great shops to kill time at I’m not even going to try listing them.
  2. Taste of India. Everyone loves this place. I try to go here about once a week.
  3. Delancey. Delicious authentic pizza.
  4. De Nunzio’s? Italian Restaurant. Oh No! One of the review’s says this place went out of business. However, the cafe upstairs is still running, has the same delicious food, and a crazy small awkward dining room (I love those) Check out Cafe Bengodi!
  5. Ipanema Brazilian Grill. It looks like a vegetarian salad bar, until they come by your table with huge spits of meat and cut off a piece!
  6. Yasuko’s Teriyaki. Did you want Teriyaki? Why did I ask that, I know the answer (is yes).
  7. The Crab Pot. Imagine a restaurant where you order seafood and they come out and indiscriminately dump a pile of it on your table. Now imagine that pile also tastes good.
  8. Ichiro Teriyaki. I think of this as a Korean place actually, they have that and Teriyaki and Sushi. It’s kind of an “Asian Fusion” type of thing I guess. It has terrible reviews. Why is that?
  9. Fort St George. Go here for the Japanese curry, and the feeling that you don’t belong. I love this place, which also has bad reviews. Why do people hate things I love?
  10. Uwajimaya. An enormous Asian grocery store with an awesome food court.
  11. Cafe Flora. Delicious vegetarian food.
  12. Bamboo Garden. Vegetarian Chinese food. The menu does NOT make it super obvious that you are ordering Chinese food, so I like to take out-of-town people here and try to fool them.
  13. Sutra. Speaking of places I like to take out-of-towners, I like to take people to Sutra because it’s like walking into the show Portlandia. Before the meal, they ring a gong and tell you about the food you are about to eat, where it came from and the relationship they have with local farmers. Also, DO add the wine flight, it’s a crazy good deal: $27 for six generous glasses (one with each course).
  14. Krishna Restaurant. Delicious vegetarian brunch. There is a lot of vegetarian places on here, and I’m not vegetarian. See, the thing about vegetarian restaurants is, they have to be really outstanding or you’ll just go home and cry into your vegan pillows.

How to add digital camera video (AVI) to a webpage using Adobe Dreamweaver

First we need to convert our .avi file from the digital camera into a .flv (flash video) file, so it can be viewed on the internet.

  1. Open Adobe Media Encoder CS4 (located in the Adobe Design Premium CS4 folder in the start menu)
  2. Click the “Add” button.
  3. Double-click the .avi file you wish to convert.
  4. Click the “Settings” button.
  5. Change the “Preset” drop-down to be “FLV – Web Medium”
  6. Click “OK”
  7. Click “Start Queue”

Now we can insert the FLV file into a webpage using Adobe Dreamweaver

  1. Put the cursor where you want to insert the video.
  2. Click “Insert” drop down.
  3. Click “Media” then “FLV…”
  4. Click the “Browse” button.
  5. Double-click the FLV file you just created.
  6. Make sure to copy the file to the appropriate place in your website, if you haven’t already.
  7. Click “Detect Size”
  8. Check “Auto play” and “Auto rewind” if you want those functions.
  9. Click “OK”
  10. Save the page and check it in. Be sure to check in the whole folder, so your FLV file is uploaded as well.

Quick Print Icon, prints to any printer in Word 2007

The default quick print icon behavior in Word 2007 is to print to your default printer. Here is how to make an icon in the Word 2007’s Quick Access Toolbar (QAT) which prints directly to any printer you want. This is handy if you want an icon that prints to a different printer than the default, or you just want a quick print icon for each of your pinters.

To do this, we need to input a macro. To do that, we need the “Developer Tab”. Follow these steps to make the Developer Tab appear:

  1. Click the Microsoft Office Button in the upper left, and then click Word Options.
  2. Click Popular.
  3. Under Top options for working with Word, select the Show Developer tab in the Ribbon check box.

The following creates the print macro.

  1. Click the Developer Tab.
  2. Click on the large Macros button on the left.
  3. Type anything in the Macro Name box, for ex: “PrintFromFavoritePrinter”
  4. Click the Create button.
  5. Cut and paste the commands below, so that your window looks like this:
  6. 
    Sub PrintFromFavoritePrinter()
    '
    ' PrintFromFavoritePrinter Macro
    '
    '
    Dim sCurrentPrinter As String
    
    sCurrentPrinter = ActivePrinter
    ActivePrinter = "HP LaserJet 1020"
    Application.PrintOut FileName:=""
    ActivePrinter = sCurrentPrinter
    
    End Sub
    
  7. Replace the text: “HP LaserJet 1020” with the exact name of your printer, from the Printers and Faxes section of your control panel.
  8. Press ctrl+s to save, then close the window.

The macro has been created, you can run it out of the macros list, but what a pain! Create an icon on the Quick Access Toolbar.

  1. Right-click anywhere on the QAT and click: “Customize Quick Access Toolbar…”
  2. Select “Macros” from the “Choose commands from:” drop-down.
  3. Click the “PrintFromFav…” macro on the left, then click the “Add>>” button.
  4. Click the Modify button at the bottom, choose an icon and change the name to something short, then click OK.

The QAT now has the icon you selected. When you click on it, it should immediately print to your favorite printer!

Simple retirement investing for 20-somethings

So, you are a twenty-something who doesn’t want to think too much about saving for retirement.

Welcome to the club! Here are the basics:

  1. Find out if your employer has a matching program. Meaning, if you contribute $100, they put in $75 or something like that. The $75 is free money that you wouldn’t get if you weren’t in their program. Stop reading this now, and join their program… now!
  2. If your employer doesn’t have a match program, again welcome to the club! What you will need is an “IRA”. This is often referred to as the whole savings plan, but for our purposes when I say IRA I mean the mechanism we are using to transfer money. The “fund” is the place where the money resides. This two-part deal is more complicated than a savings account, because the different types of IRA (the mechanism you are using to save money) have different taxation rules, which I’ll get into in a second.
  3. The fund you buy is basically what kind of stocks you want to buy. You can buy really safe things that will never lose money (but never make money), or you can buy riskier funds which have higher returns.
  4. Just remember: the fund holds your money (and hopefully grows it), and IRA is how you are transferring money into your fund.

Roth IRA, the mechanism

The Roth IRA is great for young people. This is what I use to do all my investing right now. You pay all your taxes on money that you put into an IRA now, but you don’t pay taxes on the money when you withdraw it in retirement. If you are young and not making a lot, you will probably be taxed more when you are old and want to “make” more money (by withdrawing it from investments you make now). When you look at your account balance you know that you will actually have that money when you retire!

With the Traditional IRA (sometimes just called an IRA) your contributions are tax-deductible. This sounds nice–ooooo I can pay less taxes now! However when you withdraw money from the account in retirement you pay taxes on it then. So your account actually has less money in it than it looks like there is! You can save the same amount of money with the Traditional IRA as you would with a Roth IRA, but you’d have to take your tax savings and put that money into your IRA. No one has that kind of financial discipline! It’s probably not a bad idea to have both, but personally I’m going to wait until I’m able to comfortably max out my Roth (currently the limit is $5,000 a year) before I open a traditional IRA to put money into as well.

How much should you put in your IRA? As much as you can afford, every single paycheck. If you put the same amount of money in your IRA at a set interval (every paycheck is best) you will benefit from something called dollar-cost averaging. Just ignore how your chosen fund is performing, and always put the same amount of money in it. Easy, right? This will protect you from market fluctuation and mistakes you might make as an investor. If you don’t believe me, I gave you the term so you can look it up. Yes, yes but how many $$$ each paycheck? Financial advisers say you should save at least 10% of your salary, so divide it out: If you make $50k/year and get paid twice a month: $50,000 divided by 10 to get 10%, then divided by 24 is: $208 you should put in every paycheck. ($30k would be $128/paycheck.)

Choosing a fund

Some people get snooty and choose a fund managed by a well known investor who chooses stocks he thinks are going to perform well. The problem with this is two-fold. One, you have to pay the guy who chooses the stocks. This is called simply ‘fees’. Any fee’s that get levied against your money is obviously less money for you, but also less interest accrued, and this ends up being a lot. The second is that investors and fund managers who outperform the market are just lucky, and no one is lucky forever. You want a long-term solution that you don’t have to think about, that won’t cost a lot in fee’s, and performs the same as the stock market in general (which is considered to average 10% over large amounts of time, by the way). So just buy the whole stock market. I have an account at Vanguard that allows me to do just this: when I buy shares in my fund, Vanguard is just buying equal shares of stock in whatever companies are listed in the S&P 500. The fees are low because it takes no brainpower to do this (a computer probably does it). And this is a long term investment, so I’m not even worried about temporary downs like we are experiencing right now.

So, before we get into the specifics of how to set up this system, lets take a look at how I’ve been doing. I bought into this account with $3,000 right before the stock market crashed. I want to show you that I made a terrible mistake, and it’s fine. Long-term investing is easy and fool proof, and you should start right now. Not when the economy is better, start right now!

I opened my account in 2007, before the crash, spending $3,000 to open the account. I’ve done my best to put in the same amount every month and utilize dollar-cost averaging, though there are times when I’ve had to change the amount I’ve paid in slightly due to some other budget priority. Here’s what my balance looks like over time:

My account balance goes up pretty steadily, because I am always feeding money into it. It feels good to have a growing amount of savings. However, notice that the line goes up higher recently. That’s because in the early days of my investment, the S&P Index was going down, so I was pumping in money, and the money I put in was actually losing it’s value! Look at this:

If my investment were making money, the line would be over the zero dollar mark. Even to this day, I would have more money if I had just made all my deposit’s directly into a savings account. But I invested “at the worst possible time”, and I’m currently only down about $500, whereas at my worst, it looked like I had lost $3,200. You have the benefit of time and dollar cost averaging, you can’t lose!

How to Get Started

  1. First, figure out how much money you can afford to “give away” every paycheck. This is money you will “never” see again (until you retire). Try to put away at least 10% of your salary, but put in whatever you can.
  2. Second, do you have $3,000 sitting around? My guess is you don’t. So the first step is to open an Orange Checking Account, which has no minimum balance, and set up a transfer to automatically put the amount you put away in step one into the account. Using an Orange Account is better than using the savings account at your bank because you won’t see the money every time you check your balance.
  3. Once you have $3,000, then you can open your RothIRA at Vanguard. Go to Vanguard.com, and open a Roth IRA, selecting the S&P 500 fund. I’m not posting instructions because their site has changed since I’ve done this, and will likely change again, but you can do the whole thing online without ever talking to a person if you like!
    • Note, I think you select the fund first, then click buy. Try this link to the S&P 500 fund.
  4. Now set up your automatic transfer. At time of writing, you have to log in to your Vanguard account, click “Accounts and Activity”, then click on your fund–probably: “Vanguard 500 Index Fund Investor Shares”. Then scroll to the bottom, and find “Automatic Investment.” This is also where you can change the amount you invest.

Parsing CSV data files with PHP, using quotesplit

I originally got this function from the comments on this page: http://us2.php.net/manual/en/function.split.php. But I recently put a bit of time into making it compatible with fields quoted with multiple quotes. This function can deal with input like:

"one"," "two"", """three"""

It will parse data that is not CSV (comma separated values) as well, just pass in a different delimiter.

I have two helper functions here, one which removes an element from the array, then rebuilds the array to re-create the array keys. The other deals with the multiple quote issue by stepping through the initial array and removing the extra rows created due to the fact that we have multiple quotes.

	
#######################################
function RemoveArrayElement($array, $removeKey)
{
   unset($array[$removeKey]);
      foreach ($array as $value)
         $return[] = $value;
   return ($return);
}
#######################################
function DealWithMultipleSurroundingQuotes($splitter, &$getstrings)
{
   for($x = 0; $x < count($getstrings); $x += 2) //foreach even key
   {
      if (!stristr($getstrings[$x], $splitter)) //if splitter is not in row
      {
         if (trim($getstrings[$x-1]) == '') //if previous row is empty
            //remove previous row
            $getstrings = RemoveArrayElement($getstrings, $x-1);
         else
            //remove current row
            $getstrings = RemoveArrayElement($getstrings, $x);

         return false;
      }
   }
   return true; //Function finished successfully!
}
#######################################
function quotesplit( $splitter=',', $s, $restore_quotes=false )
{
   # First step is to split it up into the bits that are surrounded by quotes
   # and the bits that aren't. Adding the delimiter to the ends simplifies
   # the logic further down

   $getstrings = explode('"', $splitter . $s . $splitter);

   while(!DealWithMultipleSurroundingQuotes($splitter, $getstrings));

   # $instring toggles so we know if we are in a quoted string or not
   $delimlen = strlen($splitter);
   $instring = 0;

   while (list($arg, $val) = each($getstrings))
   {
      if ($instring == 1)
      {
         if($restore_quotes)
         {
            # Add string with quotes to the previous value in the array
            $result[count($result)-1] = $result[count($result)-1]. '"' . addslashes(trim($val)) . '"';
         } else {
            # Add the whole string, untouched to the array
            $result[count($result)-1] = addslashes(trim($val));
         }
         $instring = 0;
      } else {
         # Break up the string according to the delimiter character
         # Each string has extraneous delimiters around it (inc the ones
         #  we added above), so they need to be stripped off
         $temparray = split($splitter, substr($val, $delimlen, strlen($val)-$delimlen-$delimlen+1 ) );
         while(list($iarg, $ival) = each($temparray))
            $result[] = addslashes(trim($ival));
         $instring = 1;
      }
   }
   return $result;
}

How to budget and never get another overdraft fee from your bank

How to budget, never get another overdraw fee from your bank, never pay another ATM fee, live well and stay inside your budget. It took me an embarrassingly long time to figure out this amazingly simple system, so I hope to help you by passing on this info.

 

Step one, make sure you have enough bank accounts

Bank accounts are buckets of money. You can have your banks automatically move money from one bucket to another, which I think is the key to success.

Here is the minimum number of bank accounts any person should have, and what they are used for.

  1. Main Checking Account
    • This is your main bank account, the one that receives your income each month.
    • This bank account is used to ‘pay’ other bank accounts, pay rent, and make debt payments.
  2. Short-Term Savings Account
    • This should be at the same bank as your Main Checking, and tied to it in online banking so you can easily make transactions between the two accounts.
    • Your Main Checking account should automatically be set to ‘pay’ this account a set amount each pay period.
    • You should try not to think of this as spendable money, but don’t feel bad if you use money from this account for unexpected monthly expenses (doctors bills, car repairs, etc)
  3. Medium-Term Savings Account
    • This account should be at a different bank than your other accounts, so that transfers and checking the balance are more difficult. You want to forget that you have money in this account.
    • Online-only bank accounts are great for this, as you typically get slightly better interest rates on your savings than from a brick and mortar bank. I use Orange Savings from ING.
    • It might help if you decide this money is going to be used for something specific on a specific date. Like I need the $x for a down payment for new car next winter, or I need $x for a vacation in summer of 2011. Then divide the amount of money you need by the number of pay periods you have between now and then, and set up an automatic transfer to pay this account that much each pay period.
  4. Spending Money Checking Account
    • Your Main Checking account will pay this account with the amount of money you’ve budgeted for yourself to spend each month.
    • At the start of each week, you will visit your banks ATM, and withdraw the amount of cash you have allotted yourself to spend that week.
    • Now, when you look into your wallet, you will know exactly how much money you have to spend on buying lunch, buying dinner, buying gas, going out to drinks, buying coffee, shoes, albums, etc, etc. You don’t need to track any purchases made with this money, but you will start to think about how big a piece of the spending money pie each thing is; you will begin to feel whether or not certain purchases are worthwhile.
    • If you need more money in a given week, you can check your account balance online. Because you don’t use the debit feature on your ATM card, the account balance will almost always be accurate. If you don’t have any money left in the account, you can choose to use a credit card–but you’ll know that you’re going over budget with every single swipe.

 

Suggested additional accounts.

  1. Credit Cards
    • I have two cards. One with a balance from before I started using this system (which I am steadily paying off), and one without a balance which I pay off every pay period.
    • The credit card should only be swiped for must-have daily purchases, when you run out of money in your spending money account. You must focus on the fact that every swipe of the card is you going over budget.
    • The credit card can also be used for emergencies, like car repairs and doctors bills. Then, transfer money from your Short-Term Savings into your Main Checking, and (hopefully) pay the credit card bill in full.
  2. Long-Term Savings (retirement account)
    • I have a Roth IRA with Vanguard for my retirement money. If you want to know what that is and how to set one up for yourself, visit the post I wrote about that!
    • This is an account which you probably will not be able to withdraw money from without loosing a bunch to taxes. That’s OK. You should think of money you put into this account as an expense, as money that is leaving your possession.
    • You can have multiple Long-Term Accounts, one retirement IRA from work, one Orange Savings for a down payment on a house, one for your (or your kids) college education, etc.

 

Step two, creating and keeping track of your budget

I use two spreadsheets for this. If you are not familiar with how spreadsheet programs work, you could make some lines on a piece of paper and do the calculations by hand.

The first spreadsheet

The first spreadsheet is used to manage each what you pay each pay period.



Click the image above for a larger view, or download the Weekly Budget Sample Spreadsheet.

What is on this Spreadsheet?

  1. There are two worksheets on this one sheet, the one the left is your scratch pad and the one on the right is a monthly breakdown just for informational purposes (not strictly necessary).
  2. This spreadsheet looks simple, but only because you aren’t actually tracking all your expenses, just the big, regularly occurring ones. The smaller more irregular transactions come out of your Spending Money Checking Account (IE your wallet). If your wallet is empty you do something cheap like go to the park instead of to a concert.
  3. I also have a little ‘fooling yourself’ pad of a minimum balance in this spreadsheet. I have it set to $100 on this budget, but you should change it (as soon as you are able) to be the amount of one pay period. The reason for this is that your work can screw up and accidentally not pay you (this has happened to me) and you don’t want to have to scramble to make transfers and cover things. The pad is also useful in case you forget you wrote a check or some unexpected thing hits (like something that recurs every six months). The moral is you want a pad against mistakes, either your own or your employers.

Tailoring the Spreadsheet to You

  1. The hard part here is to find all of the things that you pay a set amount for each month, then find out at what time of the month you pay for each thing. Put each under the appropriate pay period.
  2. I try to make a little payment on my debt every time you get paid. I don’t do this for my student loan only because the company that I pay can only automatically withdraw money once a month. Make as many regular withdrawals and transfers automatically as you can.
  3. For the things you can have flexibility on when to pay (Savings, credit card payments), try to balance the money you pay out so that you are paying approximately the same amount each pay period. For example, if you pay $400 in rent from the second pay period of the month, make $400 in payments to your savings accounts from the first pay period. If the pay periods are somewhat balanced, then you won’t feel like you are waiting for a certain pay period, because that’s your big payday, and the other just goes to rent.
  4. Lastly, make sure that the amount you are paying out during each pay period is less than you are taking in. You want to have about $100 of breathing room (what I call Available Money). If you don’t spend this, let it accumulate in your Main Checking Account for a rainy day. I end up spending my breathing room money paying my the Credit Card that I use for my ‘over budget’ spending money purchases.

How to Use this Spreadsheet

  1. To use this sheet, open it up every time you get paid. Put x’s next to all the items from the previous pay period items which have been debited from your bank account.
  2. Next, log in to your Main Checking Account’s online banking, and get your account balance. If you have x’s next to all the items from the previous pay period on your spreadsheet, you know that your account balance is for real, so put that at the top of your worksheet, in the ‘starting balance’ cell.
  3. Next, for every payment amount that fluctuates each month (credit card balance), find out what the debit amount is this pay period and fill it in. If your free money drops below $0, you have to make a transfer from your Short-Term Savings.
  4. All of these line items should be paid from your Main Checking Account. If you have automatic deductions happening to other accounts or Credit Cards, have them moved to your Main Checking Account. You want to only see those CC balances go down anyway, and not having things automatically withdrawing from your CC’s gives you more freedom to close or change credit card accounts later.

 

The second spreadsheet

The second spreadsheet is your planning sheet, or your motivation.



Click the image above for a larger view, or download the Planning and Motivation Spreadsheet.

What is on this Spreadsheet?

  1. Each row is a pay period.
  2. I have one or two columns for everything I want to track over time. The required column for each thing I want to track is a ‘transaction column’ (labeled ‘Trans’), or how much I put in or took out of a bucket during that time period. The second column is a running total.
  3. Rent doesn’t have a total, and the long term balance fluctuates with the stock market, so I don’t have total’s columns for them. I do want them on the sheet so I can see how much money I pay in rent and for retirement over time.

How to use this Spreadsheet

  1. I call this my motivation sheet because I can see about how much money I’ll have at a given date in the future.
  2. I’m trying to calculate interest as the totals go (download the spreadsheet with the link above and look at the formulas if you want), and in the totals lines I’m calculating interest so I can see how much my debt is costing me, and my ‘investments’ (savings accounts) are earning. This is not totally necessary, the money accrued from interest is pretty insubstantial, as you can see.
  3. This spreadsheet is incredibly useful for figuring out how much you should pay each pay period on a certain debt (for use on the first, budget sheet). For example, I want to pay off my Credit Card by July 2010, and now I know if I make these payments I’ll have it done by then.
  4. Open this sheet every pay period and enter with how much you’ve actually paid towards each debt or savings account.

Capturing images from a video file

Windows Media Player just doesn’t have the chops for this task. You’re going to have to install a better video player. Don’t worry, it’s free!

  1. Install VLC Media Player: http://www.videolan.org/vlc/download-windows.html
  2. Open VLC
  3. Load the video file by clicking on the Media drop down, the Open File
  4. Click the Tools drop down, then Preferences
  5. Click ‘Video’ on the left.
  6. In the last box ‘Video Snapshots’ it lists the directory where captured images will go. Take note of this directory or change it to be whatever you wish.
  7. Play the video.
  8. At the moment you wish to capture an image, click the Video drop down, then click Snapshot.
  9. Go to that directory we saw in preferences, and Robert’s your mother’s brother! Images!