Monday, January 31, 2011

Out of Shape Fiscally? Join a Bootcamp.

Between them, and offer four bootcamps designed to whip the finances into shape. Photos from

IT is understandable that it would take a full month to recover from the Yuletide Season hangover, thus forgetting that a new month is dawning. Tomorrow, in case it has escaped notice until now, is 1 Feb.

Groundhog Day is in two days and few have made a start on those 2011 resolutions that were likely declared over one too many drinks. No worries, there are 11 months left to do/become better. Those with aspirations to improve in the area of money management can check themselves into one of four bootcamps from personal finance Web site, LearnVest and lifestyle portal Real Simple.

As good a place to start as any is the 17-day “Personal Finance Basics” bootcamp. Day 1’s exercise is all about getting organized. “Welcome to LV Bootcamp!,” reads the introduction from LearnVest, a site geared toward women but from which men can also benefit. “It’s time to get your financial life in order. We keep things short and simple, so when you get your daily To-Dos, we expect you to follow them ASAP.”

The daily “To-Dos” lists are for “On the Web” and “At Home.” The Web assignment for Day 1 is to set up Internet access for all accounts i.e., cable, credit cards, cell/mobile phones. As LearnVest points out, not only does it eliminate paperwork/paper build-up, it is good for the environment. Further, from a voice of experience, it makes life exceedingly more manageable.

There is no red tape involved in joining a bootcamp, and acceptance is guaranteed. All are free except one (15-day “Premium Investing”/$14.99). Potential recruits should hustle over to the site and select the desired bootcamp. ( ) LearnVest sends a welcome via e-mail followed by one assignment each day over the course of the program.

In the "Personal Finance Basics" bootcamp, credit cards take a beating.

Paying for purchases with a credit card and not paying the balance in full each month is akin to taking out a loan – and very possibly one at a disadvantageous rate. Welcome to "Your Name, In Plastic" and Day 8 of the “Personal Finance Basics” bootcamp. Day 8 also marks the midway point of the bootcamp. As if for inspiration, LearnVest Founder/CEO Alexa von Tobel delivers a video pep talk. (

A “key takaway,” from “Your Name, In Plastic” is a reminder of a point that bears repeating over and over again: Avoid department store credit cards because the fees are “outlandish” despite the promotion that is as enticing as the Louboutins in the shoe department at Saks Fifth Avenue.

It is possible to have HBO and a reasonable cable bill, too, the "Cut Your Costs" bootcamp asserts.

Speaking of outlandish – the cable bill. Like everything else it is negotiable, according to the exercise, “In The Living Room: Negotiate Your Cable Bill In 5 Easy Steps,” on Day 5 of the “Cut Your Costs” bootcamp. Superintended by LearnVest in partnership with Real Simple, “Cut Your Costs” is a 15-day plan dedicated to saving money in every area of life and seemingly in every room in the house. (

Viewers in the market/mood for a lower cable bill should not get on the phone with customer service, but with the cancellation department. “They’ll probably send you to the customer retention department,” the gurus advise in Step 2. “Say that you’re considering eliminating service altogether; this department has the best deals on hand to keep you as a customer.”

Pass the remote, please.

Visit to learn more about all four bootcamps.

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