Ms. Frugal

Thrifty blog and frugal recipies

Fees to Avoid When Choosing a Bank Account

Every consumer needs a safe place that he or she can store money for future use. Consumers have several options that include opening bank accounts or credit union accounts. Finding an account that is “easy on the balance” is the best way to get the most out of a banking institution. The following are miscellaneous fees that a person should review and try to avoid when choosing a banking establishment:

Monthly Maintenance Fees

Monthly maintenance fees are random fees that banks charge their customers for the mere “luxury” of having an account. Consumers can avoid these fees by conducting research to find an institution that does not charge them. They are out there, but consumers must conduct research to find them. One example of a bank that has a $0 monthly maintenance fee account is Citizen’s bank. Debtors can avoid the monthly fee by having a paycheck deposited into the account at least once per month.

Overdraft Fees

Banks make a large portion of their proceeds by charging customers for the slightest overdrafts. Some of them have an intricate system by which they slowly process debit card transactions to create overdrafts. A $.05 discrepancy can cause a consumer to lose up to $36. The best way to avoid this from happening is to find a bank that does not have overdraft fees. Alternatively, the consumer can opt for overdraft protection (which has fees) or search for a bank with low overdraft fees. An example of a bank that does not charge overdraft fees is GoBank. GoBank is a subsidiary of Green Dot Bank. The bank is new, and it is still working on its website. Consumers who sign up with this bank will have the opportunity to avoid overdraft fees and nonsufficient funds charges.

ATM Transaction Fees

Consumers who have debit cards associated with their bank accounts are sometimes blindsided by random ATM transaction fees. ATM fees can be as high as $3 to $5 by the time the bank and the ATM owner finishes taking their cuts. The best ways to avoid ATM fees is to read carefully the bank’s terms and agreements. Some consumers can avoid ATM fees by using specific ATM machines for their withdrawals.

The art of choosing the right bank account includes careful research, thorough comparison, and in-depth reading of each bank’s “terms and agreements” section. Credit unions are a healthy alternative because their members own them rather than investors and stockholders.

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How to Handle Credit and Debit Card Fraud

No matter how safe you think you might be with your debit or credit card, you are still susceptible to credit card fraud. Consumers lose more than $500 million each year because of such activities. Credit or debit card fraud is an unfortunate incident that involves the use of your information by an unauthorized person. Such can occur because of online hackers, bogus offers, dishonest restaurant employees, or intricate skimming devices. You should check the balance of your cards every day as an extra security measure. The following contains some tips for handling fraud if it does come your way:

Call the Credit Card Company or Bank Immediately

You must report your loss the moment you find out that someone has made a fraudulent charge. Most credit cards and debit cards have a number on the back that you can call to speak to someone right away. The faster you report the loss, the sooner the card company can shut down your card and begin its investigation. You will most likely have to visit a bank branch and file paperwork about your debit card loss. The bank will then investigate the charges and credit the funds back into your account if it finds the charges are fraudulent.

Press Charges

As a consumer who has many rights, you have the right to press charges against anyone who fraudulently uses your card. The bank will let you know if it finds personal information on the person who illegally used your credit or debit card. If you would like to press charges, then you will visit your local police station and bring with you the proof that the bank gives you. A first offense of credit card fraud or identity theft is punishable by jail time of six months to several years. Making examples out of people who commit these crimes is an excellent way to deter future crimes.

Amp up Your Protective Measures

You will want to protect your cards once you experience the devastation of having someone misuse your personal information. Three tips that can save you from theft in the future are:

• Only use secure sites (https) for online shopping.
• Minimize the use of standalone payboxes (Redbox).
• Check your balances every day.

Shopping with credit and debit cards can still be an enjoyable experience if you take the extra time to protect yourself. Credit and debit card companies have many policies in place for your protection and the protection of other consumers like you.

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How to Get Furniture for Your Home With Bad Credit

Moving into a new home or apartment is an amazing achievement. You now have multiple square feet in which you can create your innermost visual dream, but what if you have bad credit? What will you do for furniture? Bedroom and living furniture items are the most expensive items in a home. If you have a bad score, then you may not be able to obtain furniture items without paying cash for them. The following are some ways that you can furnish your home even if you have bad credit:

Save a Large Down Payment/ Use a Cosigner

One option that you have for obtaining approval on a finance deal is submitting a large down payment. You should choose a small furniture company rather than a large chain. The larger your down payment is, the more likely you are to obtain approval. Alternatively, you can apply with a co-signer that has stellar credit, and you can obtain a prime interest rate.

Rent-to-Own Furniture

You can furnish your home at one of the many rent-to-own furniture locations across the United States. Rent-to-own furniture establishments will not check your credit, and they can deliver furniture to your home within 24 hours of approving your application. You can rent the furniture until you find something more attractive, or you can pay it off in 18 to 24 months. The benefit of rent-to-own furniture deals is that they can provide you with instant gratification. The downside is that the businesses usually charge you two to three times the retail cost of the furniture before you own it. Additionally, almost 95 percent of the furniture is used.

Classifieds

One place that you may get lucky is the classifieds. You can use the classified ads that you see in the paper version of your local newspaper, or you can use online classified ads. This method requires patience and negotiations. Having a friend with a pickup truck is helpful, as well. Many homeowners sell perfectly good furniture because they do not want to carry it with them when they move. Residents who are having a hard time selling something may offer it to you for an extremely cheap price. You might get lucky and find a free curbside item.

No matter how poor your credit score is, you will not be without furniture in your new home. Try any of the aforementioned methods, and you will be able to create your home fantasy.

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Ways to Build a Frugal Wardrobe

The wardrobe is a crucial part of a consumer’s personality that he or she will want to have established. Nowadays, a person can find frugal ways of obtaining fashionable high-quality clothing with which he or she can build an amazing wardrobe. The following provides alternative methods to finding brand name clothing:

Search for Treasures at Thrift Shops

Thrift shops contain various types of clothing including some brand name items. People who have large wardrobes sometimes donate clothing that is in perfectly good condition. No one ever knows what he or she will find in one of these shops, and the hunt can be extremely exciting. A shopper could find brand name clothing for a fraction of the price. For example, a patient shopper could find a pair of low-rise Express jeans for as little as $4. No one but the shopper has to know where he or she purchased the clothing.

Shop the Clearance Racks Online and Offline

The clearance racks consist of items that were difficult for the retailer to sell for one reason or another. The seasons may be changing, and the store may need additional room for in-season items. Some clothing on the clearance racks have blemishes such small tears or missing buttons. A shopper can search the online or offline clearance racks for pieces that would fit nicely into his or her wardrobe. The person could save off-season items for a time that he or she would benefit from wearing them. He or she could also fix small blemishes with small repair items such as thread and new buttons.

Use Coupons and Promotional Codes

Shopping online is a great way to find inexpensive wardrobe additions because of coupons and promotional codes. Online clothing stores and outlets often have dedicated pages that offer discount coupons and codes. A shopper can enter these special codes during the checkout process to receive huge savings on shipping expenses and the purchase items.

Auction Sites and Free Classifieds

Finally, a person who is trying to enhance his or her wardrobe can find bulk clothing sets on auction sites such as eBay and free classified sites such as Craigslist. Sellers offer huge bundles of clothing on these sites for as little as a few dollars. A consumer can take advantage of any of these methods to expand his or her wardrobe into a smorgasbord of high fashion and allure.

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Living on a Budget

Living on a budget may be necessary for a consumer for a wide variety of reasons. A recent job loss may cause a person to have to monitor his or her expenses until the situation improves. A person on a fixed income such as disability or retirement would also need to watch his or her expenses. Other factors such as household changes, separations and newly started schooling can make a person have to start budgeting as well. The good part about living on a budget is that it is easy no matter what the reason for it is. The following are three quick budgeting tips for frugal living:

Calculate DI to See the Big Picture

A consumer cannot budget without calculating his or her disposable income. Therefore, a prospective budgeter needs to see how much money he or she really has. Disposable income is a person’s total income minus his or her total debts. Disposable income is the amount that is left over after the subtractions. Once a person reaches that figure, then he or she will know the max amounts to spend on living expenses and entertainment.

Reduce Household Bills

A consumer can increase the amount of disposable income by decreasing several household bills. The consumer always has the power to manipulate electric bills, cell phone bills and cable bills. Adjusting bills consists of comparing several providers and finding the one that offers the best pricing. Next, the person can remove features that he or she is not using. For example, the consumer can remove a feature such as unlimited data from cell phone plan. A person who has a cable account could remove premium channels and save approximately $20 for each one.

Grocery Shop in Bulk and Use Coupons

A budgeter can save money on food by shopping in bulk. Manufacturers often give discounts for large purchases of their food products. Buying and cooking raw foods rather than prepared foods is another excellent way to budget one’s spending. Additionally, a budgeter will want to use coupons and promotional codes from the circulars and online websites. Finally, several grocery stores offer their customers discount cards. Stopping for a minute to sign up for one would be a smart move.

Budgeting begins with saving money in the most obvious places. A consumer can develop additional creative budgeting strategies by considering other expense areas.

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RENTER’S INSURANCE: For the financially challenged, renting outweighs buying

Most financial gurus and experts will argue incessantly that buying a home makes much more sense than renting, using the old ideology that the latter is like throwing money away or investing in something that isn’t really yours.

That makes sense, and no one is going to argue the overall message behind that point. But buying only should be contemplated and considered if you’re financially able to do so. The last thing an individual or family wants to do is begin paying a mortgage that is hard to afford initially, only to be saddled with other house related expenses like unexpected repair or bills that aren’t included in the mortgage total.

Renting allows you to have a beautiful home at a reasonable price that fits within your budget, minus the worries of replacing that leaking faucet or hole in the roof.

The huge upside of renting is that you’ll undoubtedly pay less rent versus that mortgage payment but the real financial sense comes from everything else that goes with both means of living. Most town homes or apartments come with certain utilities included, like water, gas, sewage or electric. Moreover, landlords are the ones that are responsible if something breaks, not you. That also could include expensive appliances if they were provided by the landlord before you moved in to the place.

Buying a house isn’t just about the flat amount for the home itself but also includes furnishing the place to some degree. Of course, you’ll have to do that with an apartment as well but not having to buy a fridge, stove, washer or dryer will save you at least $2,000 up front. Take that into consideration along with the average home repairs for a calendar year is nearly $1,000 as well.

That’s the thing about purchasing a home that often is forgotten by would be buyers. They look at the sticker price but fail to really understand and consider if they can afford everything else that goes into the entire process, whether that is initial buys like furniture or appliances or bills that you don’t have to factor into the apartment aspect of renting.

But because renting has such a negative stigma to it when it comes to finances and building equity from a credit standpoint, plenty of people skip apartment hunting and go straight for the home buying endeavor. That bravado only works if it truly makes sound financial sense. Otherwise, it’s going to cultivate a situation that leaves you struggling to save money and hardly finding the time to enjoy your home the way you should.

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PASSING THE BUCK: When it comes to money woes, you have no one to blame

Most of you who struggle financially have this enormous burden because you made poor buying decisions, spent more than you make and lived well beyond your means.

And if any of those descriptions fits you, don’t feel bad. You’re not alone because plenty of the population aren’t happy with their financial standing but either do nothing about it or ignore it and buy whatever they want anyway.

Just because you shouldn’t feel bad doesn’t mean you don’t deserve your fair share of blame.

That crash and burn mentality isn’t going to fix anything and is only going to allow you debt and debauchery to continue to the point you’ll be eventually be turned down for credit, hit your current limits and, perhaps, lose everything.

The trick to avoiding your financial issues transforming from problematic to dire is simply admitting fault and begin to work toward fixing it. That revelation hardly sounds groundbreaking, but you’d be surprised to find that most people who don’t follow a budget and struggle with day to day finances are quick to pass the buck to someone or something else aside from placing the onus on their own shoulders.

This isn’t an attempt to downplay some sort of life changing event or illness, for example, which may have put you in a financial predicament. But the Catch 22 of this discussion might eventually return to one simple question: Shouldn’t you have had some emergency cash stashed in the bank? That is called planning ahead and assuming that, at any moment, someone could get sick, lose a job or an unexpected repair could rear its ugly head.

A lot of what ails you could be solved with not only coming clean and admitting you have money problems or a spending habit but also devising a simple budget after assessing where you are financially at this moment. Taking just a second to sit down and simply write out what you pay out versus what you are bringing in as far as income is a remarkably easy first step toward actually building a portfolio or a respectable savings account.

A budget also will curtail your lavish spending and make you think twice about a shopping spree, a second car or taking a vacation that just isn’t in the cards this year. That budget is a constant reminder that you only have so much discretionary income at your disposal, and just that alone is enough to push you in the right direction financially.

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ATTITUDE ADJUSTMENT: Why your mood and outlook determines if you’ll climb out of debt

If attitude truly is everything, then without a positive one you’ll be left with nothing.
And that includes your money.

Being strapped for cash or outright broke has become all too common with the general public, regardless of whether you’re a 20 something post college student struggling to find a job or pay bills or on the cusp of retirement only to realize that you really don’t have enough money to actually stop working.

In most instances, debt is directly related with doubt, pessimism and a feeling that you’ll never truly be able to climb out of this financial tailspin. Once you have that mindset, it’s often hard to break that way of thinking and thus the situation doesn’t get better. Instead, you start to piling on more debt and your attitude adjust from poor to downright disgusted with your money woes.

You feel beaten, battered and utterly powerless and finally reach a financial crossroads.

The smartest path in this instance also happens to be the easiest, and that’s the simple act of reviewing how your money is being spent. This is a task that often is overlooked and isn’t treated with much sincerity. The majority of people who struggle with money use words like “kinda” and “sorta” when asked if they truly track where their money goes. Shaking off that negativity you have when it comes to money starts with paying attention to what you’re spending and then figuring out where you want to be financially over the next few months.

This practice is the timeless art of setting goals and budgeting, something that is terribly difficult if you’re not in the right mindset to move forward to get out of debt. Often people put unrealistic goals on just about anything they participate in, whether it’s losing weight or saving money.

If you have $500 leftover at the end of each month, and you decide that you want to have $20,000 in the bank within one year, that’s not realistic. Putting that kind of pressure on yourself is no different than wanting to lose 20 pounds by your high school reunion in two weeks. You get to the point that you know you simply can’t achieve that mark and quit.

Money is the same.

Take that $500 monthly stipend and make it a point to save half of it, and perhaps lower your expectations to having $3,000 within that year benchmark; at least that’s a number that is doable.

In the end, saving money and spending it wisely starts with thinking positively and knowing wholeheartedly that no matter how dire the situation is that the first step toward financial freedom is just a small one.

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BUDGETING BEAUTY: Why your hair, face and skin care is killing your budget

Everyone wants long, flowing hair, beautiful, pristine skin and a face that looks years younger than it should. All of this sounds sensational, but at what cost?
Not every consumer has the type of discretionary income to lavish themselves with products that are of the brand name ilk but feel like anything less than that is going to mean rough skin or a face that feels like shoe leather.

That is a mindset that is both foolish and financially concerning, given the simple art of matching up ingredients is a timeless art that shouldn’t be overlooked. Various generic products may sound like they’re not worth your time or money, but they actually can cost up to 50% less than their name brand counterparts. The real money pit when it comes to cosmetics, lotions and other comparable items is department stores that typically dabble in clothing but house a enough make up stands to make a serious profit off what you believe to be the best.

Savvy consumers that won’t assume generics are lesser quality aren’t afraid to have their less expensive alternative go head to head with the brand names; they’ll simply match ingredients as suggested. You’ll find that most generics cost less only because they’re not marketed as heavily or don’t employ a high end spokesperson to push the products.

Items such as body wash, lip gloss and make up remover all work perfectly fine when purchased on the lower end scale. Make up remover especially comes to mind as an expense that is needless. Consider that make up remover might be rather pricey, and baby oil is a realistic, lesser expensive choice that works just as well.

As long as you’re saving money on removing make up, why not try your hand at actual make up, too?

Shampoo and conditioner always is a laughable expense for those who shell out hundreds of dollars per year on so called salon quality products that totally are unnecessary. If you compare the overly expensive versus the modest options at a drug or grocery store, you’ll be thrilled to learn that they’re almost identical for what they can do for your hair.

Longing for loveable locks and movie star quality looks by buying the very best products for your face and skin is wishful thinking for most of us from a price standpoint. Thankfully, you don’t have to be a box office hero or television icon to stay runway ready. It just takes a little something called swallowing your pride and picking the products that are top shelf without the price tag to go with them.

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GOOD, BAD AND UGLY: Do you know what kind of credit debt you’re carrying?

Most people carry around debt, but do you really know if it’s the good or bad kind?

When you hear the word “debt,” thoughts immediately turn to the negative, ugly side of it. Debt often is mostly associated with those who carry around heaping helpings of it in the form of credit cards, easily the most unwanted form of debt. Credit cards come in handy when you have an emergency, but they’re almost always associated with high interest rates in the teens or low 20s.

The rule of thumb with credit cards is that they should only be used as a last resort when cash isn’t available and, for example, your roof is leaking. Far too often, however, credit cards end up being the plastic card of choice for things like clothing, vacations or furniture that you don’t actually need.

The average household in the United States has about $15,000 in debt, which probably doesn’t all come from that pesky roof. You have to imagine that some is from job loss or unexpected medial issues, but the majority most of the time is bad debt gone even worse thanks to poor decision making.

From bad to good, it’s hard to think of debt in that vein. But all debt isn’t bad but rather can be described as somewhere between good to essential. Owning a home always has been considered a great investment, and that still holds true relatively. The key to being a prudent and smart home owner has nothing to do with spreading mulch or replacing siding but simply making your mortgage payments on time and resisting the temptation to borrow against your home, thus putting your investment in jeopardy should you fall behind.

College or any sort of tuition also falls into the positive category when it comes to debt, given the importance of education as it relates to getting a better job and making more money. Moderation when it comes to paying for schooling also is paramount, along with narrowing down your interests before you begin taking out tons of loans. The last thing you want to do is think you’re headed to college for communications only to change your mind halfway through and opt for business. Your first lesson in bad business is switching majors and adding more money and years on to an already expensive investment that is school.

With any debt, you have to truly examine its nature and determine its worthiness and if you’re able to pay it back in a reasonable amount of time or if the interest rates is such that it allows you to take your time. Anything beyond that is worth walking away from without question.

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