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30 Money Sites to Check Out in 2009

30 Money Sites to Check Out in 2009

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    There are so many personal finance resources online that it’s hard to know where to start. There are blogs, web applications, news sites and more. This list is a beginning — if you take a look at the sites included here, I know you’ll find something new for 2009. Some of these sites are brand new, some are the online presence of organizations that have been around for decades. But all of them look like they’ll have great things happening in the next year: these sites have the information that we all need (no matter our current financial situation) to get a great start on 2009.

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    Blogs

    1. Get Rich Slowly: I never fail to be impressed by the posts on GRS — this blog started as a personal financial journey, but has grown into so much more.
    2. I Will Teach You To Be Rich: While most personal finance blogs focus on cutting costs, I Will Teach You… pushes readers to increase their income, instead. It’s an approach that I think is ignored all too often but is absolutely important.
    3. WiseBread: There are plenty of money blogs that focus on one person’s journey: it’s a useful view point, but there’s just as much value in seeing what a community of people come up with. WiseBread offers an amazing community of writers.
    4. Yielding Wealth: When it comes to keep track of news in the personal finance sector, Yielding Wealth is always on the spot with the facts.
    5. The Simple Dollar: Of all the great content on TSD, I recommend the book reviews. There are plenty of great books on personal finance out there and I typically find them through TSD.
    6. Mrs. Micah: Another ‘speaking from experience’ blog, Mrs. Micah is more detail-oriented: her posts offer great tips on how to handle specific situations.
    7. No Limits Ladies: If you’re interested in focusing more on the money-making side of personal finance, NLL talks about everything from real estate to building a business. While the blog is geared towards ladies, I don’t think that they’d mind if guys stop by.
    8. The Frugal Duchess: The Frugal Duchess herself released a book earlier this year, and her blog is full of the same level of advice she dispenses at the Miami Herald.
    9. Five Cent Nickel: Full of practical advice and great deals, Five Cent Nickel offers a quick clue-in on all sorts of personal finance topics.
    10. The Color of Money: While not properly a blog — The Color of Money is the Washington Post’s regular column about personal finance — you’ll find tons of great information that doesn’t always make it through the rest of the personal finance blogosphere.

    Web Applications

    1. Mint.com: Probably the most popular money management application online, Mint.com is continuing to evolve. Most recently, the application became available on the iPhone.
    2. Wesabe: Another popular money management application, Wesabe is community-oriented. You can get lots of help and advice with any financial situation you encounter.
    3. Shoeboxed: My favorite financial tool of the last year is Shoeboxed: for a small fee, they’ll take care of sorting and scanning all of your receipts.
    4. QuickenOnline: You can take advantage of the full power of Quicken online — and for free. It’s a solid money management tool, based on Intuit’s years of work in the field.
    5. Thrive: If you’re in your 20s or 30s, Thrive offers all sorts of personal finance help targeted just at you.
    6. BillShrink: BillShrink helps you compare your cell phone plan and credit cards to make sure that you’re getting the best possible deal.
    7. Rudder: When visiting several sites to manage your money is too much, Rudder provides a solution — it delivers all of your personal finance information straight to your email inbox, allowing you to control your money there.
    8. SmartyPig: SmartyPig offers a head start on savings, allowing you to put money out of reach while you work towards a goal.
    9. Billster: Sharing expenses among a group — like splitting the rent with your roommates — got a lot easier with Billster. The site tracks shared bills and payments.
    10. Xpenser: For an easy way to track expenses, consider Xpenser. It works through email, an iPhone app, SMS, IM and Twitter.

    Resources

    1. Consumer Reports: While Consumer Reports has gotten into blogging in a big way lately, the whole site is very useful even if you aren’t a member.
    2. Bankrate: No matter what kind of financial information you’re looking for, Bankrate can lead you to it: loans, credit scores and taxes are just a sample of this website’s resources.
    3. The Motley Fool: The Motley Fool’s main focus is investments, although it does provide resources for other financial topics.
    4. Investopedia: Another site focused primarily on investing, the tutorials availbale on Investopedia provide a great education in a variety of topics.
    5. CNN’s Money101: For a complete guide to your financial life, Money101 can’t be beat. It’s full of step by step lessons that walk you through all sorts of financial projects.
    6. Tip’d: Tip’d launched this year — it’s sort of a Digg for money news. It’s full of great articles if you’ve got some time to spend reading.
    7. Inner8: If you’ve been looking for a place to discuss investments with other investors, check out Inner8. This new site provides tools to a large investment community.
    8. AnnualCreditReport.com: No matter what all those TV commercials say, the only place you can get all three of your credit reports for free is through ACR. It was established as to legislative requirements and protect consumers.
    9. PayScale: For financial information about your salary, check out PayScale. The site provides information about just where your salary should be.
    10. Kiplinger: Kiplinger offers solid personal finance advice on all sorts of topics, as well as current financial news.

    Have any more websites you’d like to add? Tell us about them in the comments!

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    Last Updated on July 17, 2019

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    What happens in our heads when we set goals?

    Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

    Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

    According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

    Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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    Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

    Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

    The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

    Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

    So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

    Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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    One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

    Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

    Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

    The Neurology of Ownership

    Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

    In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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    But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

    This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

    Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

    The Upshot for Goal-Setters

    So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

    On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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    It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

    On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

    But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

    More About Goals Setting

    Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

    Reference

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