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How to Fight Hyperconsumerism by Buying Nothing

March 6th, 2013

Gift of the Magi Tips and strategies on how to resist the urge to splurge from wikiHow:

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.

Five Tips to Keep Your Finances from Going Off a Cliff

March 5th, 2013

FINRAHere is a new resource with lots of practical information to help anyone manage their money.

This new Investor Checklist from the FINRA Investor Education foundation is now available for PDF download.

Hard copies can be ordered by sending an e-mail to

Pros and Cons of Online Banking – Part 1

February 22nd, 2013

online bankingOnline 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

Customer support for online banking customers is typically available through phone, chat and email.

additional reading

The Battle of the Online Checking Accounts

Online Banking by

How do money market accounts work?

Highest Savings Account Rates

February 7th, 2013

online bankingIn 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. 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.

How to Eat Right When Money’s Tight

February 2nd, 2013


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.
  • Budget Shopping

  • 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.

Healthy Recipes

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.