Archive for the ‘Curtis Money’ Category
Contemporary public libraries are not just about books, music and movies.
You can also use the resources at Curtis to improve your financial situation.
- Search the library catalog for books on how to start a home or online business. Need help? Ask a reference librarian.
- Make yourself more marketable in the job market by gaining additional computer skills and/or preparing for examinations. Need help? Ask a reference librarian.
- Check out a book on How to sell on eBay. Need help? Ask a reference librarian.
- Do you have a story to tell? Search the library catalog for books on self-publishing. Search MARVEL! for articles on self-publishing. Need help? Ask a reference librarian.
- Use the library’s job search computers to search for a 2nd job and to update your resume. Need help? Ask a reference librarian.
In addition to providing guided access to the information and technical know-how necessary to make money by starting a business, selling on eBay, self-publishing a book and/or acquiring a second job, Curtis also provides public PCs, printers and free Wi-Fi.
Need help with the computers?
Curtis librarians are often able to provide assistance with basic computer tasks such as editing and formatting resumes, exporting Word documents as PDFs (necessary for self-publishing) and uploading digital photos (recommended for creating eBay auctions).
Libraries will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no libraries.
― Anne Herbert
Despite the fact that online banks tend to offer more competitive rates of interest than “brick and mortar” banks, you may prefer — or may also have need for — a physical bank that has “real” people that can help you with your financial needs.
Here are some important factors to consider:
Accessibility: Is the financial institution close to your home, school, work, etc.? How convenient are its hours? Other accessibility factors could include: ample parking, a drive-up window, automated teller machines (ATMs), outlying branches, internet banking, bill paying services and mobile banking.
Annual Percentage Rate (APR): When shopping for consumer loans for the purchase of items like cars, boats, and homes, it pays to find the lender offering the lowest APR. The difference of ½ of one percent on a mortgage loan can equal thousands of dollars of savings over the term of that loan.
Annual Percentage Yield (APY): The term Annual Percentage Yield (APY) represents the, percentage rate reflecting the total amount of interest paid on an account, based on the interest rate, and the frequency of compounding for a 365 day period. APYs make comparison shopping for savings accounts and CD’s much easier. Simply select the highest yield or APY.
Service: If you already have an account ask yourself, “Are the employees of the financial institution friendly? Professional? Knowledgeable? Accurate? Do I waste too much time in long teller lines?” For comparisons, ask friends and relatives about the service quality at their financial institution.
Service Charges: These fees vary widely from institution to institution! Savings accounts can have minimum balance requirements, monthly fees for not keeping that balance, or no fees/balance requirements at all! Checking accounts may have monthly fees, per check fees for items both written and deposited, overdraft charges for “bouncing” checks, etc. There may be fees for ATM transaction, bill paying services or mobile banking transactions.
As related in a previous Curtis Money Blog post, online banks such as Ally offer higher rates of interest than traditional “brick and mortar” banks as well as other advantages such as interest-bearing checking accounts with no minimum balances.
But are there any drawbacks to banking online?
1) There won’t be a physical person you can talk in case of a problem.
2) Funds that you transfer from a “brick and mortar” bank will not be available for up to 5 business days.
3) You can’t deposit cash — and certainly not rolled up coins — into an online bank account.
4) You can deposit a check directly into an online bank account but you would need to use a computer or camera-equipped mobile device to do so.
5) You don’t need to own your own computer (or internet-enabled mobile device) to bank online but you would need to be wary of shoulder surfers when you access any private information while using a public computer.
Earning, saving, spending, investing, budgeting, collecting, and giving are all part of handling money.
And handling money wisely is what financial literacy is all about.
Recommended Resources from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency
The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas offers this personal finance resource, which can be used individually or in the classroom to help young people develop plans for building personal wealth.
The Obama administration launched the Smart Disclosure Data Community to make potentially useful data available to consumers and innovators. This centralized platform contains hundreds of smart disclosure datasets and resources from dozens of agencies across government.
The USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) hosts this Web site, which provides free resources to help people meet day-to-day expenses while saving and investing for the future. The site offers research-based fact sheets, interactive lessons, recorded webinars, and land grant university faculty members who answer questions about personal finance via the “Ask the Expert” application.
This IRS Web site offers a full line of tax products and services, including federal tax forms and publications, for people who use special assistive technology, such as screen-reading software, refreshable Braille displays, and voice recognition software.
The National Foundation for Credit Counseling offers this Web site, which analyzes users’ behavior and provides customized feedback, allowing individuals and families to monitor and assess their financial lives and adjust their behavior to maximize their economic empowerment. The site is also available in Spanish.
1. Examine your spending habits. Are your buying decisions motivated by your own values or by advertisements? Don’t be influenced by consumerism and an obsession with spending.
2. Stay home. If you don’t need to shop, don’t go shopping simply because you are bored. Don’t use shopping as a recreation or amusement.
3. Leave the money at home. The easiest way to not buy anything is simply not to take any cash, checks, debit cards, or credit cards with you when you go out.
4. Avoid plastic. Try putting your credit card in a container with some water and freezing it. That way you have it for holidays and emergencies but not just to go buy stuff.
5. Buy used. If you really need something and haven’t been able to beg, borrow, or dumpster-dive it, go to a thrift shop and get one for pennies on the dollar.
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NOTE: The tips on the wikiHow page are first rate but the inline advertisements are not part of the article.
Online Banks such as Ally and Capital One 360 (the former ING Direct) offer higher rates of interest than traditional "brick and mortar" banks such as TD Bank, Androscoggin and Norway (which also offer online banking services).
But as always, it pays to read the fine print.
Ally Bank’s Money Market account for example, currently offers the highest rate of interest for a money market account that does not require maintaining a minimum balance (or a minimum initial deposit).
Ally does not charge any services fees with this account – plus you get free checks and a Visa Debit card that you can use for free at another bank’s ATM machine (fees are reimbursed to your Ally account).
However with Ally Bank’s Money Market account, you are limited to 6 transactions per 30 day statement period.
By transactions, Ally means ATM withdrawals, checks written and cash transfers to external bank accounts.
NOTE: deposits are not considered to be transactions. You can make as many deposits as you want.
If you exceed six transactions during a statement period, you will be charged a $10.00 “excessive transaction fee.”
Ally Bank’s Ally’s Interest Checking account has a lower rate of interest than the money market account but at the time of this writing does not have any limitations to the number of transactions you can make per statement period.
As with the money market account, you get free checks and a debit card (MasterCard) without any service fees or minimum balance to maintain.
You can make deposits to an online bank by mailing a paper check, electronically transferring funds from another bank or through a mobile phone application.
Ally offers mobile apps for both Android and Apple iOS devices.
Customer support for online banking customers is typically available through phone, chat and email.
In a previous Curtis Money Post, we talked about the 10% solution which encourages you to pay yourself first by taking 10% of every paycheck you receive and setting it aside for a rainy day (or a very cold one).
But where should you store those hard-earned funds?
Interest rates are pretty meager these days but even a small amount of interest is better than none.
Plus it will add up over time.
Bankrate.com keeps track of interest rates for checking, savings, CDs and money market accounts.
Last month, Forbes published an article which proclaimed “Online Banks Offer Best Savings Account Rates For 2013″.
Number one on their list is Ally Bank.
I personally have been using this online bank and have been very impressed with their customer service and how easy (and economical) they make it to both save and access my money.
But is online banking right for you?
We’ll explore the pros and cons of online banks vs. traditional “brick and mortar” banks in the next Curtis Money post.
Grocery bills are probably one of your largest household expenses. Unlike some of your other expenses, food costs are variable and you easily lower them.
Here are 10 quick and easy tips to lower grocery costs while eating healthy:
- Compare and Contrast – Locate the “Unit Price” on the shelf directly below the product. Use it to compare different brands and different sizes of the same brand to determine which is more economical.
- Go Easy on Your Wallet – Certain foods are typically low-cost options all year round. Try beans for a less expensive protein food. For vegetables, buy carrots, greens, or potatoes. Apples and bananas are good choices for fruits.
- Check Weekly Ads from the Grocery Store – Check advertised specials in local newspapers and online for the best buys.
- Use a Shopping List to Save Time and Money – Plan ahead for meals you will prepare next week. Check recipes ahead of time, along with your refrigerator and cabinets, to see if you have all the ingredients. If not, add those foods to your weekly grocery list.
- Shop with a Full Stomach – When food shopping, make sure you have eaten a meal before going to the supermarket. Also, make sure you have a shopping list so you buy what you need, NOT what catches your eye. Using a list saves both time and money.
- Spice Up Your Meals – Flavor foods with herbs and spices, not with fats and oils or salt. Choose recipes that use very little salt, sugar, or fat for flavoring. Instead, try cooking with a variety of herbs like basil, oregano, marjoram, and spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and curry. Tasty foods make you feel satisfied and help you to enjoy a meal.
- How Much Stock Is In Your Pantry? – Buying too much food can result in items being thrown out because of expired dates, bugs, or other reasons. Use what you buy and don’t overstock those shelves. Too much of any food gets boring. Variety in food intake keeps us healthier.
- Your Freezer Is Your Best Friend – Serve meals that provide your family with healthy foods in a short amount of time and that are easy to prepare. Use your freezer to store meal items cooked in advance, as well newly purchased frozen foods. The more preparation you do, the less the cost and the more control you have over the calories, fat, salt, and sugar levels of foods.
- Menus: Do You Plan Ahead for Meals at Home? – Menus are not just for restaurants. Menus set up a plan for eating the following week and determine what’s on your shopping list. Menus keep meals organized and help fit purchases into your food budget. You will save money and avoid last minute quick food purchases like pizza or burgers because you “don’t have time to cook tonight.”
- Buy in Bulk – It is almost always cheaper to buy foods in bulk. Before you shop, remember to check if you have enough freezer space.
Not sure what to cook? The library has 100s of books on how to create healthy meals.
Ask a reference librarian for help finding the ones that suit your palette.
If you were suddenly to lose your job and/or other sources of income, how long could you keep a roof over your head?
In order to define clear savings goals, it’s important to know how much money you need for absolute essentials (most notably rent and food):
- 1 month living expenses
- 3 months living expenses
- 6 months living expenses
- 12 months living expenses
Here’s an easy-to-use online calculator to quickly calculate how much money you are spending each month and how much you have left over to save for a rainy day (or a very cold one):
You can see how much more you could save if you eliminate non-essential items such as a monthly cable TV bill and home internet.
NOTE: In addition to a large collection of DVDs, the library offers free wi-fi and public PCs.
If you see yourself in any of these tell-tale signs, please visit the Curtis Money Management section on the second floor of the library.
If you’re “financially shy” and would like an excellent primer on personal finance, I recommend Financial Peace Revisited by Dave Ramsey.
For magnificent examples on how to achieve financial independence through frugality, I recommend “The Millionaire Next Door” by Thomas Stanley.
NOTE: Need help? Please ask a reference librarian for assistance.
Cited from “Debtors Anonymous:”
1. Being unclear about your financial situation. Not knowing account balances, monthly expenses, loan interest rates, fees, fines, or contractual obligations.
2. Frequently “borrowing” items such as books, pens, or small amounts of money from friends and others, and failing to return them.
3. Poor saving habits. Not planning for taxes, retirement or other not-recurring but predictable items, and then feeling surprised when they come due; a “live for today, don’t worry about tomorrow” attitude.
4. Compulsive shopping: Being unable to pass up a “good deal”; making impulsive purchases; leaving price tags on clothes so they can be returned; not using items you’ve purchased.
5. Difficulty in meeting basic financial or personal obligations, and/or an inordinate sense of accomplishment when such obligations are met.
6. A different feeling when buying things on credit than when paying cash, a feeling of being in the club, of being accepted, of being grown up.
7. Living in chaos and drama around money: Using one credit card to pay another; bouncing checks; always having a financial crisis to contend with.
8. A tendency to live on the edge: Living paycheck to paycheck; taking risks with health and car insurance coverage; writing checks hoping money will appear to cover them.
9. Unwarranted inhibition and embarrassment in what should be a normal discussion of money.
10. Overworking or underearning: Working extra hours to earn money to pay creditors; using time inefficiently; taking jobs below your skill and education level.
11. An unwillingness to care for and value yourself: Living in self-imposed deprivation; denying your basic needs in order to pay your creditors.
12. A feeling or hope that someone will take care of you if necessary, so that you won’t really get into serious financial trouble, that there will always be someone you can turn to.
But due to late legislation, some Federal 2012 tax forms, instructions and publications are not yet available.
The information we have is that the IRS is aiming for mid-February.
In the meantime, some forms and booklets can be printed from http://www.irs.gov/Forms-&-Pubs.
These can be printed inside the library for 10 cents per page.
If you need assistance navigating the IRS website, please ask a reference librarian.
In a series of upcoming Curtis Money Blog posts, we’ll cover how to use the resources at the library to increase savings and reduce debt (hopefully to absolute zero by year’s end).
Topics will include:
- how to save more and spend less
- how to increase your income
- how (and where) to put money aside for a rainy day
- how to deal with debt collectors
- how to find the highest rates of interest for savings accounts, money market accounts, and CDs
- advantages and disadvantages of online banking
- where to go to get more financial help
All I ask is a chance to prove that money can’t make me happy.