Switching to Gmail Web-App

I recently made the switch to the Gmail web-app.  I have had a Gmail address (or two) for a long time.  However, I have always used a local application to access my email.  For years, I used the standard mail app that comes with OSX.  Recently, I had switched to Sparrow.  However, after Sparrow was acquired by Google, I knew it was a matter of time before I needed to find something else.  In the last few months, Sparrow was having some glitches that bothered me enough to start looking around and make a switch once again.

I looked for a few weeks, and where I ended surprised even me.  I really don’t like the web interface for Gmail.  But in the end… functionality was what won the day.  The biggest gain for me, was that once I get the Gmail interface set up the way I want it, I can access my email in that EXACT interface from anywhere. First, I forwarded ALL of my emails to my Gmail account, and then I set each email up to send from there as well.  Gmail can automatically respond from the same address that a message was sent to me on… so now I don’t even need to know what address a message comes in on.  If I respond, Gmail responds from the correct address (you do have to select this setting).  Still, I set up labels for each of my emails, just so I can keep track of where conversations are happening.

Over all, it has taken me a few weeks to get things the way I like them.  Now I have my labels and filters set up in a way that works for me, and I am slowly getting accustomed to Gmail shortcuts.  The final step for me, was to clean things up.  I turned to Gmelius for that.  Gmelius allows you to take out adds and clean the interface up a bit (but only in Chrome).  Of course, If I access my Gmail from someone else’s computer, it won’t have the final touches that Gmelius adds. The functionality will be the same, though, and I can live with that.

Now that I am on the flip-side of having made the switch… I can hardly imagine going back to a stand-alone email app.  I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with Google (and all super-huge mega companies that are trying to rule the world), but the functionality they offer for email is fantastic for my usage.


My 10 Favorite Mac Apps

After I wrote about YNAB yesterday, I started thinking about which Mac apps I use the most and wouldn’t want to live without….  Here they are:

Wunderlist:  Free and awesome task-management.  Syncs with iPad, iPhone, and has a web app.

Evernote:  The catch-all for small notes, lists, web-pages, etc.  Also syncs with all your devices and has a web app.

DropBox:  It’s truly amazing to be able to access your files from anywhere on any device.  Dropbox also adds great functionality to a lot of other apps.

iCal:  I know, I know.  It comes bundled on your Mac.  That doesn’t make it any less useful.  I use google to keep all my calendars in sync.

Chrome:   I can’t really say I love this app, but I have to use a web browser, well, a lot.  Chrome is my browser of choice for most things.

YNAB:  I wrote about this yesterday….  In my opinion, it’s the best finance and budgeting app out there.  If you need help managing your budget, go try it out.

Skype:  I know it’s old news, but it is still amazing to me every time I talk face to face with my friends in Ethiopia, or even with family half way across the U.S.  Good stuff.

Sublime Text 2:  I started learning Web design and development about 9 months ago.  Before that, I had never heard of Sublime Text 2.  Now I use it daily.

1Password:  All of my passwords are now different and 10 or more characters long.  And guess what… I don’t have to remember them!  Security is awesome.

Sparrow:  I remember in college when email was the new thing.  I had to go to the computer lab to check it, and it was so fun!  Sparrow made email fun again.  Not as fun as in college, but still….

Whelp…. there’s my list.  Did I miss anything?  What’s on your list that isn’t on mine?


Revisiting our Budget

We have always lived on a budget for the most part, but any time we would try to sit down and figure out the nuts and bolts of each month, it just wouldn’t work.  The main reason it didn’t work: every month is different!  In the winter,  gas bills are around $100, while in the summer they are closer to $30.  Some months you need to buy gifts, others you don’t.  In the summer we do more home improvement.  December has Christmas.  Our annual garbage bill is due in October.  Like I said…. every month is noticeably different.  We tried to figure out averages and budget that way, but it just never seemed to line up or give us a real handle on how to plan for our upcoming expenses.  So instead, we just watched our spending as closely as possible and hoped that it would work out.

Luckily for us, it mostly worked out.  However, we just never felt like we had a good handle on how it worked and where our money was going.   So last December, I started  searching around for a good app to help us out.  I checked all the major finance apps and even a few “just budget” apps.  None of them seemed flexible enough to fit the bill.  That’s when I found YNAB.   YNAB stands for You Need A Budget.  It’s pretty much a full financial app (for Windows or Mac) that revolves around a well thought out methodology of budgeting.

And guess what?  It worked.  I downloaded the trial version.  (The trial has full functionality but only lasts for 35 days or something like that.)  At first, I was skeptical.  It takes a little work to get going.  It doesn’t sync with banks, so I put everything in manually (this turned out to be a benefit, as we are just more aware of our spending habits).   I decided to go all in, and really use the program for the full trial to see how it would work.  I attended a few of their live online classes (really helpful stuff) and watched a few online videos.  20 days later, I purchased the full app and have never looked back.

I could go into the methodology and features, but if your interested in all that you can go check out the website.  Ultimately, the reason it works for us?  It treats every month separately.  Each month we budget our money.  This allows your budget to be flexible where you need to be, and to plan for the bigger upcoming expenses (YNAB calls these rainy days).

YNAB takes a little work but it has really helped us get a handle on our finances.  The biggest thing for us, is that we no longer wonder if things are going to work out and we have more freedom to spend money when and where we need to.  This is what a budget should do!

If you think you need to start budgeting, or you like the idea of budgeting but haven’t been very successful at it… I suggest you give YNAB a try.