New startup aims to ‘Trim’ the fat from your monthly spending

Making sense of your personal finance is a lot like flossing — it’s tedious, it’s not what you might call “fun”, but it needs to be done. Otherwise, things start to get messy in a hurry. There are dozens of tools and apps aimed at improving our (occasionally tenuous) grasps of our own finances, but there’s a new service that hopes to simplify the way we interact with our money. It’s called Trim.

The concept behind Trim is dead-simple: sign up, connect your credit card, and Trim will sift through your transaction data to find recurring payments and help you cancel any you decide you don’t want. 

The idea came about when Trim co-founder Daniel Petkevich, who considers himself a pretty financially responsible person, found recurring payments that he wasn’t aware of on his statement, including a renter’s insurance policy for an apartment he no longer lived in. The realization that money was slipping through the cracks every month virtually unnoticed led he and co-founder Thomas Smyth to starting Trim. 

It’s Smyth who likens the practice of getting one’s financials in order to flossing. It’s as unglamorous as it is necessary, but Trim makes at least one aspect of personal finance management a little less painful in less time than it takes to floss (probably — I don’t really know your life or how long it takes you to floss, but it took me all of one minute to get underway).

Once you connect your credit card, Trim’s algorithm sifts through your transaction data to find subscriptions — things you’d expect, like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and maybe a few that you’ve forgotten you’re paying for or haven’t gotten around to cancelling. 

I know what you’re thinking: is this safe? 

Petkevich breaks it down for me and the short answer is: totally, with the help of Plaid, an API designed to securely handle bank data. Plaid’s raison d’être is to allow developers to access financial data securely, without risk to banks and customers. To connect your credit card to Trim, you simply login to your bank through Plaid and an encrypted read-only token is sent back to Trim. 

While Trim can help you cancel subscriptions you don’t want, it can’t access your accounts directly. No need to worry about attacks on Trim’s servers, either. They’re protected with Amazon Web Services (also used by NASA and the DoD) and 256-bit SSL encryption. Oh, and even if someone was feeling extra motivated and did manage to find a way into the servers, there wouldn’t be anything to steal — Trim doesn’t store your username or password or any other sensitive data. 

“Through these integrations with the banks, they only give read-only access tokens,” says Smyth, “so there’s literally no way for anything to go wrong or weirdly with your account.” 

After Trim’s algorithm has had a chance to parse your transaction data, you’ll get a text detailing your subscriptions, from Spotify to the Wall Street Journal. 

For those diligent folks who keep careful track of monthly statements and expenses, these probably won’t come as a surprise, but it’s certainly helpful to have a monthly breakdown of just how much you’re dropping in subscriptions every month. Those who tend to be a little less detail-oriented with monthly transactions, however, may find something rotten in the state of Denmark.  

Whether it’s LinkedIn Premium charges, a Wall Street Journal subscription, or the notoriously difficult to cancel gym memberships, Trim is good at weeding out the invisible financial skeletons in one’s closet. And while the average person saves about $15 per month ($180 per year) with the service, the current all-time high for unearthed monthly subscriptions is a baffling 95 for a single customer.

Trim is totally free, and Smyth says that they want to keep it that way. Right now, Trim is backed by private venture capitalists and while they may one day consider adding a premium tier that includes more in-depth analysis and financial coaching, he says that because Trim’s service is essentially software that doesn’t cost anything to run, it doesn’t seem quite right to charge people in order to help them save money. Ideally, there will always be a free version — and they mean really, truly free.

“Personal finance is something you can always put off until another day, and we want to make it something you can today just by making it as simple as possible,” says Smyth. “I do think it’s really, really important for us to just spend a minute doing something to get our financial lives a little more in-order, and that’s where we want to help.” 

Are most coworking spaces in dire financial straits?

When DeskMag polled 1,500 international members of the coworking movement, it found only 40 percent of coworking spaces are profitable. How bad is this figure? When you take the movement’s young age into account, not as bad as it first appears, claims the magazine.

How I’m Getting an Efficient Start on the New Year

The last week of the year is a great time to get organized. Chances are good that many of your coworkers and/or clients have the week off, so it should be a fairly quiet week for most of us. We could spend that extra time goofing off, or we could spend it getting our acts together to get 2010 off to a great start. Here are the steps that I’m taking, and while it’s not quite as extensive as Meryl’s list, it should be achievable this week and set me up well for 2010. Read More about How I’m Getting an Efficient Start on the New Year

Start Now to Wrap Up 2009 and Prepare for 2010

For those perfect freelancers who remember to carefully record and track every expense, there isn’t much to do at tax time other than hand over their perfectly organized documents to their accountant. For the less perfect among us, we probably have some work to do. I am reasonably good at keeping track of everything, but there are always a few things that slide and get neglected. In my previous post about holiday stress reduction, I talked about getting ahead on some tasks that can be accomplished early — and one of those tasks is taxes.

For most freelancers, December is a slower month. Our clients are taking vacations and rarely does anyone schedule a big launch in December or January. This makes December an ideal time to get our finances in order, prepare for 2009 taxes and make any adjustments in our plans for 2010. Read More about Start Now to Wrap Up 2009 and Prepare for 2010

Nina Paley Shares Some Sita $tats

We’ve followed the travails of Nina Paley, whose beautiful, animated film, Sita Sings the Blues, was hamstrung by sticky copyright restrictions (more here). But Paley persevered and during a recent talk at the Workbook Project’s DIY DAYS in Philadelphia, she did what so many other web creators won’t — share actual dollar figures for what she’s earned from Sita so far.

Long story short, Paley believes in freely distributing her content — the movie itself — but making money of what she calls the “containers” that hold that content: DVDs, merchandise, T-shirts, etc. Sita is a promotional vehicle to sell merchandise (a view she thinks is crass but true).
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TAB Welcomes: Dave Greenbaum

TAB Welcomes:  Dave Greenbaum

TAB Welcomes: Dave Greenbaum

As a new writer here, let me give you the File ? Get Info on me.

For my day job, I own a computer repair business here in Lawrence, Kansas. Drawing on my support background, I focus on practical technology from the user perspective; If I can’t find it useful, I’m not that interested in it. My passion is helping people with technology. I’ve worked in corporate IT and academic computing before settling on residential and small office computer support. I’m also heavily involved in our User Group.

My experience with Apple goes back to Apple IIe days; the first Mac I used was a MacPlus, and owned was a IIvx. Ever since then I’ve been a Mac fan. I even met my spouse through the Lawrence Apple Users’ Group and we’ve been married 10 years this June. Read More about TAB Welcomes: Dave Greenbaum

Casio’s Camera Creates Some Cool Videos

Most of today’s digital cameras can do more than just capture basic snapshots. But few — if any — can do what Casio’s (s casio) EX-FS10 can: Shoot continuous images in high-speed burst mode and record slow-motion videos.

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The EX-FS10 is slim, even by compact camera standards: It measures just more than 0.6 inches thick. You can, literally, slip it into a pocket unnoticed. Its small size makes its high-speed shooting features even more remarkable; these capabilities are typically found on much larger cameras, like digital SLRs.

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Weekly App Store Pick: April 25, 2009


What’s that on the horizon? Why it’s none other than the latest picks fresh from the App Store, coming to brighten up your weekend!

Though before I run you through my latest selection of newly released apps, it’s time to indulge in a quick refresher of some of this week’s Apple news.
We started the week not with a bang, but with a tweet. In the early hours of Monday morning, Loren Brichter (otherwise known as iPhone developer Atebits), launched Tweetie for Mac, a desktop version of the immensely popular iPhone Twitter client. Those of you who have taken to summarizing your life as a series of hastily written 140 character messages, should check out my in-depth look at Tweetie.
The iPod touch is apparently growing in popularity with the U.S. Army. It was revealed this week that deployed soldiers are able to use the touch for ballistics calculation and translations, among other things. It’s not clear if voice recognition, a rumored feature of the new iPhone 3.0 update, will also be making it to the iPod touch.
On Thursday, Apple held their second-quarter conference call. In terms of finances, total revenue for the period came to $8.33 billion, up almost $1 billion over the same quarter last year. Aside from the colossal amount of revenue generated, Tim Cook — Apple’s acting CEO while Jobs takes a leave of absence — attempted to quash any rumors of an Apple netbook.
But before the celebratory balloons could be inflated and party poppers popped, Apple was duly taken down a notch with a controversial addition to the App Store. The app in question, imaginatively titled “Baby Shaker,” encouraged the user to shake the iPhone, as if it were a crying baby, until said baby died.
This week I’ve been looking at Knee Cap, Silent Scope, and Assassin’s Creed – Altair’s Chronicles.
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