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What is a Debit Card?

July 28th, 2014

Untitled-3A debit card looks like a credit card and works like a credit card – but it isn’t.

It’s simply a more convenient way to pay for something than writing a check or digging money out of your purse or wallet.

You can also use a debit card to withdraw money from an ATM.

Many banks offer free debit cards with your checking and/or savings account.

When your pay for something with a debit card, the money will be deducted (either immediately or within a few days) from your bank account.

Unlike a credit card, there is no application or approval procedure for a debit card. And using a debit card will not affect your credit rating in the slightest.

Using a debit card to pay for most (if not all) of your purchases may provide you with a safer alternative to carrying cash.

If you lose your debit card, contact your bank immediately and have them put the deep freeze on it.

TIP: Think before you swipe. Ask yourself: “Do I really need this?”

Question: Are there any disadvantages to using a debit card?

Answer: Possibly.

Would you be more likely to buy things you don’t really need if you only had to hand over (or swipe) a piece of plastic? As opposed to real money?

Although there are no fees associated with using a debit card, you may find yourself spending more money with a debit card than you would if you had to write a check or pay cash for your purchases.

If you’re not careful, you could also overdraw your bank account (or go below the “minimum balance” for your account) and have to pay a &%$# fee.

A Painless Way to Save Money

If you don’t use a debit card and instead pay cash for your purchases — and then piggy bank the coins you receive in change — you will (after a year or so) find yourself with several hundred dollars in “free money” (after you emptied the piggy bank onto your kitchen table and rolled the coins).

Don’t spend time beating on a wall, hoping to transform it into a door.
— Coco Chanel

Now is the Time to Create a Real World Food Budget

July 24th, 2014

Let’s face it, we can spend a lot of money — too much money — on food!

In his best selling book, The total money makeover : a proven plan for financial fitness, Dave Ramsey suggests that families spend somewhere between 5-15% of their monthly income on food, and he includes eating out.

The United States Department of Agriculture has published a food budget plan chart for individuals and families:

  • Thrifty plan
  • Low-cost plan
  • Moderate-cost plan
  • Liberal plan

Official USDA Food Plans

Click here to view the Official USDA Food Plans: Cost of Food at Home at Four Levels.

Food Budget in the Real World

For example, a single fellow, age 49, who needs to cut expenses and lose a few pounds (or 20) could select the “Thrifty” plan and spend no more than $187.70 per month on food (which is $46.88 per week).

At the beginning of each month or week, he could withdraw that amount from his bank account and pay cash for all of his food purchases. (The coins he receives in change could go into a piggy bank to be rolled at the end of the year for a “surprise” windfall.)

This chap would need to be frugal because when that money is gone, it’s gone until the next week (or month).

Afraid of Getting Mugged? Use a Debit Card Instead

Another option would be to use a debit card; graciously accept your receipts from the cashier (or food serving person if you’re dining out) and carefully total up the costs for your food purchases.

Hang tough! Do not exceed the costs for the food plan you’ve selected.

TIP: Think cheap and healthy when you’re shopping (canned fruit is good, Doritos not so good) and never shop when you’re hungry.

NOTE: Read about debit cards here.

No body is worth more than your body
— Melody Carstairs

How to Open a Savings Account

July 18th, 2014

Untitled-1The first step to having 6 months worth of living expenses set aside is to open a savings account.

As explained in an earlier Help for the Financially Shy post, a savings account is a safe place to keep your money.

That is a safe place where you can get your money if you truly need it but is not so readily available that you can be tempted to throw your savings away on impulse buys or non-essential items.

Also, as we’ll discuss in later posts, a savings account is also a mechanism for saving money.

What to Look for in a Savings Account

Select an FDICInformationInformationThe Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) is a United States government corporation created by the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933. It provides deposit insurance, which guarantees the safety of deposits in member banks, currently up to $250,000* per depositor per bank. insured bank that is conveniently located and offers a savings account with…

  • a low opening deposit
  • no maintenance fees
  • no minimum monthly balance (or a low one)

TIP: A bank that is staffed with people that you find to be friendly and helpful can be a big plus! (Just don’t let them sign you up for a credit card.)

Once you’ve selected a bank (ask around for recommendations if you like), simply present yourself at the bank with some form of photo identification, your social security number and some money to open your savings account.

A simple fact that is hard to learn is that the time to save money is when you have some.
— Joe Moore

About the Curtis Money Help for the Financially Shy blog

"Financial literacy for the rest of us" is our motto here at Curtis Money.

Our goal is to help you get out of debt and to have at least 6 months worth of living expenses set aside as soon as possible.

1 In 4 Americans Have Nothing Set Aside For An Emergency

July 17th, 2014

  • 1 in 4 Americans are not prepared for a financial emergency.
  • 26% have no money set aside
  • Money recommends always having 6 months worth of living expenses available
  • Americans have “Great Insecurity”
  • 30 – 49 year olds are the worst about saving
  • Financial emergencies never come at a convenient time

The lack of money is the root of all evil.
—Mark Twain

What is a Savings Account? And Why Have One?

July 16th, 2014

A quick and easy introduction to saving money in a Savings Account:


  • What is a savings account?
  • Pretend the money is not there
  • Every time you get some money, put some of it into your savings account
  • Why put your money into a savings account instead of under your mattress?
  • Interest (aka “Free Money”)

If you would be wealthy, think of saving as well as getting.
— Ben Franklin