Monday, January 22, 2007
New and Improved.
1) Single Ma's recent redesign inspired me to retool my own layout. I've been tinkering with it for a few weeks (I had to figure out the difference between old style templates and new style templates the hard way). There are still a few minor things I'd like to adjust, but for the most part, I'm pleased with it. I've also finally set up my Feedburner account, which will probably give me some more headaches to start, but will also eventually improve services for any subscribers I may have (I don't track that sort of thing).

2) Speaking of feeds, I spent a very long time without a good reader (neither Bloglines nor Sage nor any standalone readers really worked for me.) Google Reader, however, seems like a good fit. Each feed displays with enough white space that I can scroll through entries easily, and folder management isn't very arduous either. I REALLY like the easy "star" system for tagging posts. I've heard complaints that it doesn't fetch entries all that quickly, but since I tend to do my reading in batches, it doesn't bother me. Plus, it's nice to have one login for reading and posting.

3) The recent edition of TaxAct has much to recommend it. I file relatively straightforward returns, so I don't need lots of customer support and advice. So I usually go with the free edition. And I'm still quite happy with the (preliminary) results. The Q&A section has a dropdown checklist feature that makes it easy to skip from section to section as different documents arrive. One caveat: If you want the system to recognize your exemptions for the standard telephone tax credit, it apparently requires completing the Q&A topics in order (although you can skip reviewing the data already entered).

I have to point out that THIS year, the Deluxe edition offers a student aid report function to assist with the FAFSA. Although I haven't used it, it seems like a good tool for figuring out one's Expected Family Contribution, since it takes the numbers from one's own return. (Still, in order to get the FAFSA filed before the February/March deadlines, it might be worth putting in estimates based on end-of-year paystubs, savings accounts, and the like, to generate the SAR. When all documents are in, then one could file the actual tax return and corrected FAFSA.)

4) I'm surprised that nobody has mentioned the no-longer-so-recent redesign at VirtualBank. While I still think ING is the simplest choice for someone who has never dealt with an online account before, the VB interface is now nearly as clean and pleasing, with logically-arranged tabs for various tasks. And the "personal account representative" is a nice feature. It's decidedly not the rate leader at 4.6%, and they don't offer tax statements online, but reponsive transfers, good beneficiary service, and other features make me likely to hold onto it at least until I have solid cash for ELoan (the only other online bank besides EmigrantDirect that makes beneficiary nomination a key feature [if I'm wrong about this, please let me know]).

Anyway, I'm pretty much all out of ING referrals (thanks to Jonathan), so if you'd like a $20 VirtualBank referral, email me.

Other new plans include me finally getting off my duff and starting to review all those financial aid books that I checked out from the library, and trying to spotlight more news items about student aid. If you have any interest in seeing something in particular featured here, I'd love to read your comments.

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Blogger Single Ma said...

Love the new look!

Blogger HC said...

Thanks! And it was all because of you.

Anonymous S/100/30 said...

I love the new layout.

It's a longshot, but HC = Haverford College?

Blogger HC said...

s/100/30--Thanks. And that's not a bad guess, but I went elsewhere. Here's a hint: Think Latin.

Anonymous Medicated Money said...

Just found your site and like the layout.

I too have been using Google Reader and to date, have found it the best one out there!


Blogger HC said...

Medicated--Thanks! And I'm glad GR works for you.

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