YNAB 4 Review

I have already reviewed YNAB in the past, but YNAB just released a new version this week.  YNAB 4 offers a few new features, but there’s one feature that stands out more than all the rest combined: cloud sync.  This is the one feature YNAB has been missing, since it was created as a desktop app.  I’ve been using YNAB 3 since the day it came out, and have had it in my Dropbox account for a long time.  I’ve never had any issues, but I have always made sure to close out of one computer before opening it on another.

YNAB 4 uses the Dropbox service as it’s cloud sync.  You might ask what the difference is, since I was using it before.  The key difference for me is that the Android and iPhone apps sync up with it as well.  I’ve got an Android phone, and it’s pretty amazing to automatically be up-to-date with my desktop version at all times.  No more manual syncing to get the two lined up.

Another difference with how Dropbox works on YNAB 4 is that you can supposedly have YNAB open on multiple computers/phones at the same time, and it won’t ever give you a conflict.  I haven’t ever run into that in the past with my day-to-day usage, but it’s good to know I never have to worry about it now.  The cloud sync service is a real game changer for YNAB.

They made some other adjustments, too.  The look and feel has gotten a complete overhaul, and it’s mostly positive.  The only negative I see is that you have to look at the next month to see how much you’ve overspent for the current month.  The rest of the design is nice though.  They paid a lot of attention to usability, and it shows.

They enhanced the reporting quite a bit, but with how YNAB’s structured, it doesn’t make much difference to me.  I find myself looking forward through the budget way more than looking at past data.  I can quickly see my average for any category over the past 3 or 12 months with one click from the budget, and that’s mostly how I used to use reports back in the old Quicken days.

If you haven’t signed up for YNAB yet, do so here (You can go to their site to sign up, but I do get a little commission if you click on the link).  YNAB is the only piece of software I’ve ever used that pays for itself ten times over.  You might think I work for them, but I don’t.  YNAB is simply the greatest piece of software I’ve ever used.  If you stick to it, using YNAB will change your life.

CitiBank Mortgage Refinance Review

Warning: this is a long post.  If you just want to get my quick review on Citibank Mortgage, just skip to the last paragraph.  If you want to hear my personal story, keep reading.

When rates dropped a few years ago, we refinanced our old house to a 15 year mortgage.  It was sold to Citi Mortgage, and I’ve had no problems with them throughout that process.  Now that rates have dropped again, to ridiculous levels, they sent me a letter in the mail to refinance with them to get a better rate.  Since that house is now our rental property, I was debating on refinancing again anyway.  We’ve been paying in addition to what the rent brings in to pay the mortgage for two years now.  I wanted to refinance so we don’t have to pay that extra amount anymore.  I want our renters to cover the entire mortgage payment.

So I gave them a call, and everything seemed great.  The person on the phone was helpful, and even gave me her direct line.  She explained the terms to me, and somewhere along the lines I told her it was a rental.  She told me that changes the terms, and gave me the terms that would apply to the rental.  The interest rate was a little higher, but was still lower than our current rate.  So I told her we wanted to go ahead and do it, and she told me that my credit card would be charged $415.50 for the appraisal.

This is where the problems started.  I checked my credit card statement a few days later, and noticed a charge from Citi for $600.50.  Come to find out, they charge more for the appraisal for rental properties, too.  When she mentioned the appraisal, she forgot to quote me the rental property price.  I figured I could just deal with that toward closing.

They sent me the first breakdown of costs (the HUD statement).  I reviewed it, and since I’ve been through a few of these in the past, one number stood out to me.  They estimated $1900 for the title fees!  That’s more than you should pay for a complete refinance!  But they had paperwork that I could fill out to choose my own title company, so I did that.  The title company I chose was one I used in the past, and had a total cost of $475 (plus, they were local, which is a HUGE plus).

I started the refinance process in January, and they had a 90 day rate lock.  I wasn’t in a rush to refi, so I was fine with waiting.  They told me it would take a while, and could take all the way up to the 90 days.  I’ve been through a few refinances in the past, and none have taken much longer than a month, if that.  But like I said, I wasn’t in a rush.

I’ll cut to the chase.  The loan processor was incompetent of doing her job.  She took forever to get back with me when I emailed her with a question, if she wrote back at all.  She asked for partial information that she needed, then added more to it after I sent her what she requested.  She never confirmed that she received anything.  The 90 days went by, and she emailed me stating that my loan had been cancelled due to lack of response on my end.  I was so upset that I didn’t even respond to her, but called the sales person instead.  That’s the short version.  The bottom line – this loan processor was simply incompetent at their job, and should be fired.

At this point, I should have just asked for my incorrectly charged $600 back, but they offered to give me $200 back to cover the difference in the quote, and would open the loan back up with the same terms and put a rush on it.  I talked to the salesperson’s boss, who was also very helpful.  He told me that he wasn’t sure if they could get it closed in two weeks, but it should be shortly thereafter.  He was going to put a rush on it, and was definitely not going to use the same underwriter.  I figured I’d give them a second chance, because their sales team was responsible.  I figured the chances of me getting another company to use the existing appraisal was probably slim to none, and I didn’t want to be out $600 that I didn’t ever agree to in the first place.

So I figured I had a bad underwriter on the loan, and it would go better this time.  Unfortunately that was not the case.  It took a month and a half to close, and that’s only after I started emailing the loan processor and both sales people every day trying to find out the status.

The original title company called me asking for some more detail.  I told them I wasn’t sure why they were calling, because I wasn’t going with them.  They asked why, and I told them I’ve never paid more than 1/3 of what they were trying to collect in closing fees.  I contacted the person who was working on my loan to make sure they were aware that I was using a different title company.  Of course, I got no response to my email.

Finally, I got a closing date!  They assigned a new person to close on my loan, and she emailed me the final closing documents.  She did state that the loan was to be closed at the company I requested.  I reviewed them, and noticed that they increased the appraisal again to be $729.50 (remember when they quoted me $415.50?).  That’s almost DOUBLE what they originally quoted me.  Can you say bait and switch?  I guess they figure nobody will ever look at the details of what they are paying on a mortgage (people really aren’t that dumb, right?).

So I immediately emailed her back, and asked her what was up with that amount.  She never wrote back.  I went to the closing, and nobody from Citi was there.  No surprise there.  I kind of gave a quick rundown to the person at the title company of the situation, and she was shocked that this whole process started in January (it’s now June 25, and I just closed today).  After I told her about the incorrect charge for the appraisal, she immediately called the person who was supposed to be dealing with my “closing” from Citi, but got her voicemail.  She emailed her as well, and tried calling back several times, with no response.  She called the sales person as well, and no answer there either.  She even tried contacting anybody from Citi during the closing, and couldn’t get through to anybody.

At this point, I was ready to be done with Citi.  I didn’t want to schedule another closing date to where I’d have to take off time from work to attend, so I signed the paperwork.  It was still a good deal, but they got me for $129 more than I agreed to (so far).  I contacted the sales person’s boss who was helpful before, but he gave me some bogus rundown of how it works out.  After I got off the phone, I looked into it more, and emailed him with all the numbers.  They should be writing me a check for $129, but we’ll see what he says.  I told him I’d give him until tomorrow night, then I’ll be in touch with the Better Business Bureau.  I’ll add a comment with what I find out, in case you’re interested.

Edit: He wrote me back, stating that they are not going to issue a refund.  I decided it’s not worth filing the complaint against the BBB, which I’m sure is what they were banking on.  I’m just glad this whole experience is over, and hope this post can help stop someone else from making my mistake.  They finally wore me down, and won on the $129, but I did a pretty good job of getting a good deal out of the whole thing overall.

If you are looking at refinancing with Citibank Mortgage, DON’T DO IT!  Stay as far away as you can, even though they seem like a reputable company up front. They will NOT close on your loan in a timely fashion, and will try to sneak charges in on you.  When you have any questions for them, they will completely ignore you.  Completely unethical company.  Go with someone local instead. That way, if they start ignoring you, you can simply visit their office.  That face-to-face option typically makes companies more reputable.

Blow Your Budget? Don’t Give Up!

Last month, we experienced what eventually happens to everyone.  We blew our budget right out of the water.  Worse than I think we ever have before.  We had a lot of exceptions come up, mostly of which involved our 10 month old getting sick.  She’s perfectly fine now, but it just cost us a lot to go to the doctor several times in the same month.  We are trying to pay down debt, so our budget is really tight right now.  We went over in a lot of areas in addition to the hospital bills.  The combination of both of those things happening blew our budget by a lot!

What do most people do when this happens to them, especially when they’re first starting to budget their money?  They give up, and say budgeting doesn’t work.  Well, that would be the wrong thing to do.  What did we do?  Normally, I would take it out of our emergency fund, and just pay it back over the next few months.  But we’re in a different situation right now.  My wife is pregnant, and we are trying to get one of our debts paid off by the time the baby comes.  So we can’t touch our emergency fund right now, because we will need it when she has a couple months off work unpaid.

Instead, I looked through other categories where we had some money saved up.  I ended up wiping out our vacation fund, because we just went on a vacation, and we realistically won’t go on another one in a while.  We didn’t have enough to cover the overage there, but I cut out some spending for this month and put a little less toward paying down debt.  The combination of all three got us to where we need to be.

But we didn’t give up on budgeting.  In fact, we got a bill in a few days ago for something I forgot about, but we already had been saving for it every month in the budget (it’s one of those 6 month bills).  I looked in the budget, and realized we already had it saved, so I just paid it.  If we quit budgeting, we wouldn’t have had money set aside for that.

So if you blow your budget, just work through it.  You’ll be thankful you did even in just a couple weeks.  Don’t give up!  Just look at where else you can take money to cover it.  I adjusted our future spending to cover our existing spending, and was willing to make the trade off.  You can do the same.

New Year’s Goals – Progress Update – Five Months

We’re trying to put every last dollar toward debt until our second baby comes, so we’re really struggling when things come up like our daughter getting sick, and us going to the doctor, getting medicine, etc. several times in the month.  It really makes me wish we could magically get out of debt now, but I know there’s supposed to be struggles along the way.  It’ll be nice when that day finally gets here.  Here’s an update on my New Year’s Goals for this year:

  1. Reduce house debt by 44.11%.
    Revised target: 32.21%, Actual: 32.67%.  We are still ahead of the revised target, but not by much.  I have a feeling the revised target will be hard to stay up with, but we’re going to do our best.  Here’s a graph of our progress so far:
  2. Run a 5k.
    This one is going to be tough.  I haven’t worked out much over the past months, so it’ll be hard to get back up to running 3 miles, let alone running in a 5k.
  3. Work out at least 2 times per week.
    Just like last month, I only ran twice.  It seems like the work around the house just keeps piling up, and I don’t have as much time to get everything done as I used to before we had a baby.  This has been pushed to the bottom of my list, so it hasn’t been getting done as much.
  4. Add at least 2 products to archwayhometheateraccessories.com
    I haven’t touched any new products this month.  After working extra most of the month, I spent the last part of the month trying to catch up on things around the house.  So I’ve had no time to work on the store.  The last product I added was from the month before: high quality component cables.
  5. Make our home  more energy efficient.
    Nothing this month.  But I’ve made some real progress in this area so far this year.  Just about the only thing left on my list is stuff in the basement, which isn’t as high of a priority.  I knocked this one out early.
  6. Participate in at least one bike race.
    The race I plan to do is the Tour de Donut.  I just looked it up, and it’s the same day as my brother’s bachelor party, so this might be tough (since I’m organizing his bachelor party).  It might work out to where I could still do this, since it starts at 9 AM, depending on what time we are supposed to do something in the afternoon.  We’ll see what happens.

I’ve been getting a little more caught up around the house, but there’s still a lot that seems like it’s slipping.  That’s causing me to not focus as much on exercising, which is hurting a few of my goals.  Overall, this was a bad month for my goals, as I only hit one out of the 4 applicable ones.  Maybe next month will be better…