Reader Mailbag #92

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Each Monday, The Simple Dollar opens up the reader mailbags and answers ten to twenty simple questions offered up by the readers on personal finance topics and many other things. Got a question? Ask it in the comments. You might also enjoy the archive of earlier reader mailbags.

Question re: online banks – How do you put paper money and checks INTO the account?
- Sara A.

It’s simple, Sara: ATMs.

You just go to the ATM and deposit your paper money and paper checks there using the envelopes provided. I actually do this quite often when trying to deposit money into my ING accounts.

The one disadvantage I’ve found with online banking (for my needs) is converting currency. Without a brick-and-mortar bank, it’s very difficult to convert $10 into quarters for my children’s allowance and so on. This is one of the reasons I’ve maintained a local bank.

I love baked enamel (Le Creuset – mmmh!) but don’t find much use for copper cookware. I think cooking with copper is more useful once you have truly mastered (and I do mean cordon blu mastered) cooking. If copper is your desire and you don’t mind the requirements to keep it shining then I would suggest starting slowly; perhaps with a copper lined bowl for whipping eggs or cream and a small sauce pan for sauces that require delicate temperature control. I have a copper sauce pan and haven’t use it in ages, prefering my favorite Calphalon.
- reulte

I actually have two different Le Creuset French ovens and I dearly love them. They’re enameled cast iron, which means that they heat evenly like cast iron but they’re a lot easier to clean. Le Creuset stuff is really expensive, but I’ve never seen it chip on mine or anyone else’s – it’s backed with a 101 year guarantee.

Copper works very well for certain things in the kitchen. I’ve found that copper works best when you’re cooking something slowly under really low heat because it conducts really well. If you don’t know what you’re doing and turn on the full heat, you’re going to have a burnt disaster. Copper requires you to relearn what you know about cooking because it gives you way more temperature control.

Where do you stand on the ‘local’ movement?

Wouldn’t it be more beneficial to your community to move your money to a lcoal credit union or bank?
- Nate

It depends on the bank.

Blindly saying that something is better because it’s local is foolish. You’ve got to stand back and look at the sum of what you receive as a customer of the bank.

Does the bank support community events or do they just pocket the money they earn? Do they have really good customer service or is it usually easier to just go use an ATM?

Most of the benefit of buying local comes from the fact that many local shops are involved with supporting the communities they serve. I’ve often bought games from our local gaming store becasue they serve the community so well. I buy milk from Picket Fence Creamery because I can go there and touch the cows.

If the local bank doesn’t provide any value for being local – meaning they just scoop away money out of the community – I don’t value them any higher than any other bank. It becomes just a pure rate comparison.

Not too long back, The Simple Dollar, Get Rich Slowly and Zen Habits all had around 40-50K readers. Now The Simple Dollar and Get Rich Slowly have approximately 70K readers whereas Zen Habits has close to 140K readers. What do you think explains the tremendous growth of Zen Habits as compared to your and JD’s blog?
- Shannon

The Simple Dollar and Get Rich Slowly inherently focus on money issues. Some people are very interested in financial issues – others would rather watch paint dry. Zen Habits rarely writes about money at all – the theme there, if there is one, is simplification.

Thus, the total potential audience of any personal finance site is smaller than the potential audience of Zen Habits. A lot of people simply don’t care about their money – or at least they’d prefer not to spend their web time reading about it. I know I certainly wouldn’t have a few years ago. I might have been a Zen Habits reader, but I wouldn’t have read Get Rich Slowly or The Simple Dollar.

It’s all about topic. I just chose a fairly narrow one.

Several friends and I are interested in converting to electronic bill paying and on-line banking, but we just don’t know where to start. Can you provide some first steps, tips and advice on how to set up my monthly bills on auto-pay?
- Cindy

Most of the time, online bill pay is offered as a service through your bank. You sign up for an online account with whatever bank you use and they provide an interface that allows you to pay your bills without writing a paper check.

Most online bill pay services allow you to enter the address of a bill you would send along with your account number there. Then, each month you would enter the amount you wish to pay, hit submit, and it’s done.

Many allow you to automatically pay bills that have a regular amount each month, like your rent or your mortgage. Some even automatically retrieve the balances of those bills.

It’s quite easy to get started, and once you do, you’ll never want to go back.

What is the effect on my credit rating if I contact credit card companies to negotiate different terms on my account? For example, does my credit score or credit report change if I negotiate for a lower interest rates? What about if I negotiate for a less-than-100% payoff amount? Thanks in advance!
- jgmillis

For the rate negotiation, it depends on whether they do a “hard pull” on your credit report in making their decision. If they don’t, it will have no impact at all. If they do, it will only have a slight short-term negative impact – about five points on your credit score which will disappear over the next year.

Compared to the benefit of getting one’s rate reduced, it’s a non-factor. Negotiate away.

As for the less-than-100% payoff amount, you’ll have to negotiate the effect on your credit yourself. The company may note that you negotiated the debt amount and paid a smaller amount, which can have a negative effect, or they can simply mark it paid. You’ll have to negotiate that part.

Since it has been a while since your first book came out, what effects (excluding monetary) has it had on your life? Do you ever go back and take a look at it? How do you feel about it now that you are taking on your second one? Hope all is going well with the second book, can’t wait to read it.
- Mol

The only real effect it has had is that it’s made it easier to arrange interviews and the like with mainstream media outlets, and I expect that my second book will help even more.

In terms of my day to day life, it’s not really had any impact at all. I don’t go around talking about “my book” to everyone – doing so would make me completely insufferable.

I do like the slow regularity of the royalty payments. At this point, it feels like free money since I’m not putting in any effort for it. When you’re writing a book, it feels somewhat like you’re writing it for the advance, but once the advance is covered, it feels like gravy.

I don’t feel any different, really.

I have a question about ING’s mortgages since I know you’re a big fan of ING, I thought you might have some insight. I looked into the three types of mortgages they offer and they seem to be similar to an ARM loan just because they don’t lock in a percentage rate for more than 5 or 7 years at a time. My question is this, would you, personally, consider an ING mortgage over a more conventional, home town bank where you can know exactly what your payment will be for 30 years? Currently I have been pre-approved for a 4.75% but the ING is around 3.9 or 4% but can go up by 6% over the course of 30 years (or it could go down or stay the same). Your thoughts?
- Missi

ING’s mortgages are basically ARMs. If you’re intending to live in your home for a period anywhere close to the period before the first ARM adjustment, I recommend avoiding ARMs.

Adjustable rate mortgages are great if you’re just going to live in the area for a few years and you know this in advance. It can basically make the interest on a home loan much cheaper than rent in the area and allow you to also build equity in a house that might build a little bit of value over the next few years.

However, if there’s any chance you will be in that house more than a few years, the ARM isn’t worth the risk. Never bet that you’ll be able to get a different mortgage down the road – it’s just not a safe bet.

I have a question regarding Christmas (holiday) gift giving…

Our income has taken a major hit this year and that combined with a desire to reduce the number of “things” that we have in our home leads us to want to propose to our families (both sides) a significant scaling back of gift giving this holiday season. Essentially what we’d be proposing is that on each “side” of the family we’d go from giving everyone (siblings, nieces, nephews, parents, etc.) a present that each person get matched with a “giver” and a “givee” and that we set a limit on the $ so. So, for example, my sister Jane would be assigned someone (say, my daughter Ann) as the person she would buy for and another person (say my husband Jim) as the person who would buy for her. So, each person, on each side, gives one present and gets one present. That would dramatically reduce the $$ spent, the stress, the running around, and the STUFF.

My sister is already on board as her in laws already practice this on their side but we’re wondering how to approach it with the remainder of our family…particularly my husband’s side who a) we’re not particularly close to but b) we spend oodles of $ on every year and c) tend to read into our most innocent comments.
- Sara

If they read too much into innocent comments, I’d be very blunt about it. Don’t dance around the issue or else you encourage such people to ask and think things that aren’t true.

When everyone’s gathered together, just ask everyone at once. “What would you think about drawing names for a gift exchange next year instead of everyone buying for everyone?” That’s exactly how I would do it – in fact, I’m considering asking a similar question this year.

If you’re not particularly close to them, even better. Don’t worry about what they think. Do what makes sense to you.

What’s the most interesting thing you learned today
- Megan

An old friend asked me this over instant messenger just now and I thought it would be interesting to put in the reader mailbag.

The most interesting thing I learned today is that in nineteenth century England, mail was delivered six times a day to most of London, four times a day in most other large cities, and even twice a day in rural areas. It wasn’t uncommon for a letter to be written in the morning in Bath and be delivered in the evening in the outskirts of London.

That’s an impressive mail service. There would be times where I would be tempted to just throw off a note to someone and drop it in the mail even today if mail could be delivered at that kind of rate.

I actually came across references to this nugget three different times today, as I was doing some research into how money was borrowed and loaned in Victorian England.

Got any questions? Ask them in the comments and I’ll use them in future mailbags.

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57 thoughts on “Reader Mailbag #92

  1. Sara A-

    I think the author meant you take the checks to the ATM of your bricks & mortar bank, deposit it with B&M Bank, THEN transfer the money electronically to ING or another online bank.

  2. My in-laws do the name out of a hat thing.

    My husband’s family is HUGE – each generation has about 4 kids in it, so buying something for everyone is often out of the question.

    We have a $50 spending limit (well, $100 since it’s my husband and I) to buy a gift for 1 person.

    This makes Christmas INCREDIBLY easy for us, financially. We still send a card to everyone, and we sent his parents and my grandparents photobooks, and I may make a few things, but other than that, we rarely spend more than $200 on Christmas.

  3. I was surprised to find that my local bank will sell me rolls of quarters whether I have an account there or not. (I do have an account, but they don’t ask me to prove it, and they certainly don’t recognize me by sight.) In fact, the only time they even asked, they were actually hoping I didn’t have an account there, because they wanted to sell me on some special deal they had for new customers.

  4. I did not know I could use an ATM to deposit a check into my ING Orange Checking account. So glad you picked that question to answer today!

  5. When I lived in England ten years ago, mail came twice a day. It was so weird for us American students, but very cool. This was back before e-mail, so letters from home were very much appreciated!

  6. Re: automatic bill payments, it seems we have it way easier where I live. All my bills are automated, so the only thing I might need to check is if I have got enough in my checking account to cover the irregular bills (insurance, etc).

    Utility bills always come up with codes for ATM/online payment, or quick instructions (usually involving a code as well) to set up authorisations for automatic debits for that specific companies. In case of bills with irregular amounts, you can set up a limit if you wish to, just to play it safe. Payments for other kinds of bills can also be authorised in similar ways: when you get a new insurance or magazine subscription or gym membership or whatever, you fill an authorisation form that must be signed and voilá, more automated payments.

    Tax bills are never automatically debited (which is a good idea, ha) but they always come with the codes for ATM/online payment. I never had to mail a check to pay a bill.

  7. @Sara – I just finished a book: “Unplug the Christmas Machine: How to put joy back in the holiday season” It was written in the early 90′s but the message is still timely.

  8. How exactly do you deposit checks directly into your ING account via an ATM?

    The only solution I’ve found is to keep a ‘regular’ brick-and-mortar checking account open. We deposit paper checks into that bank’s ATMs, then transfer the money via ING’s web interface.

    If we could avoid that middle step (and the week-long delay it causes), I’d be pretty thrilled. Spill the beans!

  9. I’ve been thinking of changing from the Fidelity debit card I have to a similar credit card with cash back. I’m worried about possibly losing my debit card and having money hijacked out of my account. Should I make the switch?

  10. @Cindy – re online bill paying. This pretty much says what #6-marta said: I set up very few of my online bill paying through my bank – for some reason there is a weird, long time lag between the date I request & the actual date the payment is processed. I also was dissatisfied trying the “we’ll write & mail the check for you” option – there is a HUGE delay before the check goes out.

    However, I DO pay most of our recurring accounts online, & some automatically. Almost all of our accounts (credit cards, utilities & services) have websites with that function. You can sign up for reminders of when payments are coming due, paperless billing, automatic payments or manually enter them. I have the telephone, cable, electricity & gas on auto pay (since they’re due in full each month). For credit cards & other variable payments, I get a reminder of the coming due date as well as a paperless statement, then I go in & set up the payment date and amount. The nice thing is this can be done ahead of time – so when I’m doing other bills, I can go in to my online accounts & set up when I want those bills paid too. Most of these sites then confirm when the payment is processed, and I double check my checking account activity to be sure it’s gone out.

  11. @Missi, I would never get an ARM loan when interest rates are at historical lows like they are today. You never know what’s going to happen. Even if you know you’re going to move in five years, maybe you won’t be able to sell your house right away. And frankly, I wouldn’t buy a house (paying all those closing costs when I bought and then again when I sold) if I knew I wouldn’t be staying long.

    Now, when interest rates are at historic highs (like, say, 15-18%), then that’s a good time to think about getting an ARM. Of course, rates might go even higher, but probably not much. But right now, rates have nowhere to go but up.

  12. i will NEVER deposit paper money into an ATM ever again. the last time, $100 mysteriously disappeared between the time the cash went into the ATM and the time it was deposited into my account. i spent days trying to get this resolved, it was tremendously stressful, i had to invoke threats of legal action (and be able to back them up), spend a bunch of time on the phone with various corporate bank people, and even take time off work to get to the bank within business hours.

    right before christmas of all times. when i was a grad student and had practically no money, and certainly not $100 to spare.

    NEVER again. (i also took my business elsewhere immediately afterward.)

  13. It seems like Sara is looking for ways to save on Christmas this year. That’s probably not going to happen. If the inlaws are sensitive about stuff like this you need to give them plenty of notice and time to digest it, not spring it on them 2 weeks before Christmas when many people have their shopping done already. I agree at this year’s gathering suggest a draw for next year but it is probably too late to change things this year unless you feel comfortable not giving to people who give to you.

  14. I find the comments about ING’s rates only being locked for 5-7 years fascinating. In Canada, that’s how all mortgages are done. My mortgage is a bog-standard 5 year fixed with 25 year amortization. I don’t know of any of the big banks that offer anything else.

    Perhaps that is another reason why Canadians tend pay down their mortgages earlier than Americans (in addition to the whole no tax benefits thing).

  15. I agree with Jennie @ 13, this is not the time to be changing Christmas gift giving; speak up in plenty of time for next year if you please, but if someone came up to me now, I’d be pretty unimpressed considering I finished my shopping a week ago.

  16. I find that my automatic bills I don’t scrutinize as much as I should. My Directv bill and electricity bill are automatic and I really don’t look at them like I should unless something is totally out of whack. However the bills I still write check for – gas bill, city utilities I scrutinize more. For some reason writing that check really makes those numbers stick in my head. My gas bill can be $10 higher one month and I’m gonna figure out why. But if my electricity bill is $40 higher I might not notice. I actually prefer the old-fashioned check writing for bills – it makes me more conscious of what I’m using.

  17. I read recently that in large cities, before telephones were widespread, postcards were the original e-mail. “Sara” might send a message in the ten o’clock mail that read “Edith, could you join us for dinner at six”? Edith would get this message in the 12 o’clock mail then send a reply in the two o’clock mail. Sara would receive her answer in the four o’clock mail.

  18. We deposit both checks and paper money into the ATM all the time. One time, we miscounted and they sent us a letter detailing the deposit, the mistake that was made, and credited our account with the $100. ATM deposits are always retrieved and counted with two employees present to catch mistakes.

  19. I do all my bill paying online, but I don’t do *automated* bill paying anymore. I got burned by the phone company once, so from now on, I keep control of when the bill is paid, and how much.

    Quick explanation: We bought a house and were moving from our apartment to our new home on August 21. We called the phone company to have phone and internet service discontinued at the apartment. They explained that we still had to pay for the entire month of August, even though we didn’t need it for the final third of the month. That’s annoying, but forgiveable. However, they also said that we’d have to pay for all of September, too! I told them that was unacceptable. They said too bad. I was set up for automatic bill pay, and they were going to take the payment out. I called the bank to try and stop it, but there was nothing they could do. Since it was being taken directly from my account (and not a credit card), I couldn’t even dispute it. Ever since then, I make sure I’m the one controlling the purse strings. I’ll never again let myself be in such a helpless position financially.

    My system for paying the bills is simple. When a bill comes in the mail, I throw it on my computer desk, right in front of the keyboard so I can’t miss it. I do NOT open it. The next time I’m on my computer, I open any bills that are sitting there, and I pay them online through my bank’s website (I’m typically on my computer every day or two, so this is not a significant delay). The key is, I don’t open the bill until the moment I pay it. Thus, if a bill hasn’t been opened, that means it hasn’t been paid. If it’s open, then it’s been paid.

  20. Ditto Jennie and Loobie above — it’s too late to suggest changes in gift-giving for this year (and I do note that Trent recommends suggesting it for next year).

    Two days ago, a friend with whom we’ve been exchanging gifts for years e-mailed and said they’re not sending presents this year. I don’t mind in the slightest — except that we’d already bought his present. It’s really kind of inconsiderate to do that at this late date.

  21. My family started using elfster.com last year when we converted to a “Secret Santa” gift exchange. It allows you to create a wish list, send secret questions, and do a secret draw so no one knows who gets who. We set a price range for spending. Everyone loved it because we saved money and each person got one gift that we really loved.

  22. Happy Monday, Trent. I just wanna say … fwiw, I don’t read Zen Habits much because I find those posts a) too short – maybe he has so many readers because the posts are so bite-sized?; b) too obvious – being a longtime yoga student, I haven’t seen anything “new” on my visits there; c) too badly written – every post I’ve read there has had disruptive syntax, spelling, and/or other errors.

    I much prefer reading you or J.D. not only for PF insights but when you write about simplicity, frugality, relationships, or any of the not-overtly-financial topics you both touch on. I think you’re both good writers, and even if I’ve already considered what you are writing about, I enjoy your posts. So, cheers!

  23. Are there only certain ATMs that work? A few months ago I went to deposit a few dollars into an ATM for my online checking account & it wouldn’t let me make any deposit. When I went into the bank that was attached to the ATM, the teller told me that I couldn’t deposit into their ATM because the system wouldn’t know my account info (even though I used my ATM card for that account) to deposit it.

  24. I’ve recently automated all of my bills through my bank. Our paychecks our automatically deposited, the bills are paid automatically, and they are all schedule in Quicken.

    Every bill in Quicken posts on the first, with the appropriate pay date, so I can see exactly what is coming out when all month long.

    My non-monthly payments have line-items entered in Quicken each month, so the money will be there when it’s needed.

    Non regular payments get paid a bit higher than necessary. For example, our cell phone plan doesn’t include text messaging, but some months there are text messages. I pay enough each month to cover, if it happens.

    Yes, I have a credit, and yes, it’s an inefficient way to save, but it guarantees no late fees and eventually, I’ll be able to skip a month of payments. I don’t notice the extra dollar or two on each of the bills.

  25. We addressed the question of family gifts a few years ago, and it didn’t go too smoothly at first.

    My wife and I are more content with finding the meaning in Christmas, and not so much the consumerism. Also, we didn’t have the extra cash to spend on everyone once we transgressed from being “kids” to being a married set of “adults”. Gifts were normally given by everyone to everyone, but there was never any meaning behind them. Not to sound ungrateful, but they were usually something that couldn’t really be used or wasn’t really needed. And most would cop out and get the same gift for everyone. (OMG on the year Billy Bass was popular!)

    I first broached the subject as a “isn’t better just to get everyone together” and “we are still trying to make it in this world”….and the first Christmas would’ve worked out great had my Aunt not been so upset at the notion that she just bought for everyone anyhow! So there we all are, just opening gifts from her! Ugh!

    It took a good two Christmases to get the message across. Now it’s fun. We get together, remove the stress of buying, and actually converse and have some fun.

    New twist though was when we had the first kids of our generation. Now everyone buys for KIDS ONLY….

  26. @KC, I actually enter my utilities onto a spreadsheet. I like to see how my water and energy usage changes. Then I can see the results of changes like replacing the air conditioner, starting a vegetable garden in the back, etc. Especially with gas and electricity, it’s often more helpful to compare to last year at this time than last month, and I’ve learned to input actual electricity and water usage rather than just cost because the price per unit keeps changing.

  27. –”Without a brick-and-mortar bank, it’s very difficult to convert $10 into quarters for my children’s allowance and so on. This is one of the reasons I’ve maintained a local bank.”

    That’s a pretty lame reason for keeping an account open. Surely it is not the only reason. Elaborate. Every bank I have ever been to, even when you do not have an account there, will cash checks drawn on their bank for you, give you change of any sort, and hand out free coin wrappers. They don’t ask if you have an account in order to provide this service. Even if that one bank wouldn’t do this, there are plenty of supermarkets that are willing to give you change. And even if they won’t there are change machines at car washes, laundromats and arcades. I cannot believe anyone would maintain an account at a bank just so they could get a ten turned into a roll of quarters.

  28. good idea on the utilities spread sheet. I do find it hard to compare from season to season because one season is electricity driven and the other is gas driven.

  29. I’m a college student who’s thinking about getting my first credit card so that I can start building some credit. I know that having a good credit score is what enables you to get different cards and higher credit limits, etc. I’ve never had a card before, nor have I ever taken out a loan of any sort. However, when I was younger, I accidentally overdrafted my checking account on several occasions. Each time, I made sure to pay back the negative balance and any fees as soon as possible. I’m wondering, however, if this is going to show up on my credit score and prevent me from getting a credit card?

  30. @Henry (#23): Why are you so angy and condescending about how and why Trent maintains his bank accounts? Weird!

  31. @Jen. The only reason he can give for maintaining an account with a local bank is so he can get a roll of quarters? We need more of an explanation than that, or else it’s not even worth him mentioning.

  32. I deposit checks into our ing accounts via postal mail. We endorse the back, write deposit only below the signature, put customer number on the front, and mail it in. Zero problems. We also send checks for different accounts/customers in the same envelope.

  33. I’ve always deposited money into my online account by transferring it from my brick-and-mortor account. It does take a few days to go through, though.

  34. On the whole Zen Habits thing, Leo guests posts like crazy all around the web. I’m not saying you don’t Trent, but I haven’t seen it as much.

  35. Hey Trent!

    I have been a longtime reader of your site and thoroughly enjoy the articles. I enjoy seeing the varied questions on Monday’s, so I thought I would submit my question which from what I can see has never been addressed:

    I have 4 student loans which have gone into default and been thrown to the collection agencies, roughly a couple of months ago. I had been granted economic hardship deferments for the last 4 years, but the time came to make the hard decision to just default – especially since I moved out of the country (yes, I was one of those people, but not just to escape debt – it was also a personal career move).

    The loans are 1 federal Perkins direct loan for $1,000 at 20.06% interest rate. The other 3 are Federal direct Stafford loans with principles of $2,674, $729.36, and $1,945.07 (my reports I have don’t show me the interest rate).

    My questions are: if the loans have already gone into collections, are they still collecting interest? I think they are, but aren’t sure. What would your plan of attack be for getting rid of this debt? I think about the way of doing $1000 in emergency savings, and then using the debt snowflake and starting with the smallest debt first (via man vs debt strategy), but there are so many options to choose from.

    How would you handle it?

    Thanks! I look forward to your next posting!

  36. @Henry: You said, “Every bank I have ever been to, even when you do not have an account there, will cash checks drawn on their bank for you…They don’t ask if you have an account in order to provide this service.”

    My experience with Bank of America has been anything BUT what you describe. Unfortunately, I have several people that issue me checks from BOA and every time I go in to cash them, it’s a big hassle and it has been for more than 20 years. They used to charge a fee because I didn’t have an account with them, even though I was at the very same branch of the person who wrote the check to me. Then, the tellers always asked if I was interested in opening an account with them, to which I could only laugh.

    Most recently, I waited in a long line only to have the teller tell me that, since I wasn’t a BOA customer, that I had to go sit and wait for a manager to approve the check. After a wait of 15-20 minutes, the manager proceeded to take my picture and have me sign a document before sending me BACK IN LINE to have a teller cash the now-approved check. He then had the audacity to ask me if I’d be interested in opening an account.

    NEVER.

    If I could do without banks completely, I would in a heartbeat.

  37. @Amy – I think it is pretty inconsiderate to think that just because you got someone a gift that they should have gotten you one back. You should be gracious and say, “okay, that totally fine with us, please do not worry about it” then send your gift.

  38. I don’t understand how you deposit to an ING account from an ATM. Where do you find an ING ATM?

    I know when I first signed up with them you could only put money into an ING account by transferring it from your linked checking account at another bank, and they did not have direct deposit. That was one way they were able to have higher interest rates than bricks and mortar banks, because they have much lower overhead. That may have changed but I have automated transfers set up to go to them from my checking at my local bank so I haven’t needed to do anything else.

  39. @Prodgod: Some credit unions cash checks without much hassle. When I was a wee one, I worked for an employer where the credit union would allow me to cash my payroll check with but a signature and a work ID, no account needed. Commercial banks, of course, must be more stringent because they can’t let anyone walk out the door with cash simply because of the type of paper handed over to the teller.

    There are always non-bank financial institutions (check-casing places) that you can obtain services from. They’re much more expensive to transact business with, however.

  40. I ride the bus all the time and I’m constantly making change to do so. Countless times I’ve used an ATM of a bank I’m not with and then walked in asking to make change. Every single place I’ve been will do it. (when I can use a non surcharge ATM I choose it)

  41. The “second post” doesn’t really exist in Britain any longer. Previously you’d get first post before work and then the second post arrived while you were at work.

    Now the first post comes at the time the second post did and the second post does not exist.

  42. Next on TSD–Trent delves into the REAL reasons he keeps a local bank account. Is it all about the quarters, or does he like the free candy in the lobby? Are any of the tellers cute, and has he ever kept a pen by accident? Join us next time for a thrilling look into one man’s strugle for cash and convenience. Sponsored by Henry of comment #23 and the Conspiracy Theory Channel.

  43. More than 20 years ago, we as a family watching young kids excitingly opening up gifts & then getting around to the ones we brought for each adult present felt a bit off & discussed it. As a family we agreed to let Mom keep a record of rotating who for who, etc one gift from a sybling for each other. As the family grew with inlaws, they were added to the list & rotated as well. We then went on to sponcer a family who was without – mostly food & special cookies, but at least one gift for each – couple for children. On only one occasion did we actually meet the family due to a large snow storm, but in the 20+ years we have only met that one trusting that our efforts made a difference in many at this point. Call your local church or social service & they will match you up with a family a size you can handle. Happy Holidays!!

  44. Next on TSD-A reader’s burning question is finally addressed: “Gee, Simple Simon, I never need a roll of quarters, so I assume there is no reason for me whatsoever to maintain an account at a local bank? Thanks for exploring all avenues and not just glossing over a question.”

    Sides, if that kid of his is such a great saver, he should have a billion quarters Trent could just buy back from him with dollars and never have to go on a never-ending quest for quarters again.

    Lenore, keeping the pens is fine, as the banks like the free advertising they provide. Grabbing a handful of candy at every visit and stockpiling it throughout the year to hand out at Halloween is not. That is frugal, but not ethical. God knows the banks can only afford one piece per customer per transaction. So that means if you bring your two kids in but only conduct one transaction, it is not ethical for you to give them both a piece. Only one piece per transaction.

  45. I noticed you didn’t respond about credit unions, I belong to one and a true credit union dosen’t make a profit. We receive around 25-30% rebate each year on interest paid or earned, it’s great!!John

  46. NEVER put cash into an ATM. I have also had very bad experiences with that, and ended up out $500 when they lost a check I put in and I didn’t have a record of who wrote it to me or the number. A fellow graduate student lost another $500 when he put the cash into an ATM. There is absolutely nothing to prevent the two clerks who get the money out from deciding to split the proceeds.

    Put your deposits in a brick and mortar bank and transfer it to ING.

  47. re – Sara and Christmas gifts
    Definitely too late to suggest drawing names for this year. Ask when everyone’s together this Christmas for next Christmas. Also suggesting only purchasing gifts for the kids and not for the adults. Be clear about the spending limit for the gift.
    Regarding your concern about “stuff” – what about purchasing movie tickets, theater tickets, zoo passes, gift cards/certificates for activities the person enjoys? What local family/kid (or adult if purchasing for adult) activities are in the area? In our area we have a children’s museum, Discovery World, a Children’s play gallery, Monkey Joe’s, Pump it up, Flabbergast and much, much more that kids enjoy. My kids would be so excited to get a paid admission for any one of these places. Most cost between $5-10 for ONE child to get in so it adds up fast and ends up being a special treat to go, not an everyday activity. Those experiences always have lasting memories and many offer physical activity, education or both. For this year if you are purchasing for whole families, rather than get them all separate “things/stuff” gift them some family time: an annual pass to the zoo or museum or an annual state parks entrance pass or something similar. Think about the ages of the kids and what activities the family has mentioned they enjoy doing together (bowling, movies, ice/roller skating, hiking, biking, etc.).

  48. I was pretty blunt on our christmas giving by email today. I just told all the people that we exchange gifts with that our credit union is funding the building (12.5 million dollars) of a hotel for veterans to stay at in Palo Alto California next to the VA hospital.(google defenders lodge) and that we were donating the entire amount that we had set aside for christmas gifts to that charity and hope they may do the same. We don’t need any more nic naks. I did get my wife a $50 portrait of our dog from a picture I submitted to an artist I found on ebay. She got me a mouse pad with another picture of our dog at walmart online at $8.49. Just a thought instead of more shopping. Of course, we have no children left in the family so it is easier to do.

  49. I’ve recently discovered your blog and all thanks to you have learnt quite a bit about money. I’ll be glad if you can devote a post to fixed monthly income for young people. Let me elaborate a bit.

    I’m 24, single and have made around $500,000 through my business. Unfortunately I’m not money savvy and can’t handle the stress of managing it. So I was thinking how great it would be if I could just invest the money somewhere for fixed monthly income to pay my expenses.

    I’ve searched annuities and it seems like they’re only offered to old retired folks. Is there a monthly fixed income option available for young folks like myself? I don’t want the stress of handling the money myself, I’ll just blow it all off on friends and end up in debt. This has happened before and I can’t trust myself again. Please let me know what you think. Thanks!

  50. Wow, a discussion about online banking… how 12 years ago. (I am Australian, we have been paying bills electronically and even sending money to each other for as long as I can remember, and I sure as hell couldn’t live without it. Lining up at the post office to pay my bills? I’d rather you knocked my teeth out with a sledgehammer! As for cheques, I don’t even have a cheque book any more!)

    I closed my local credit union account when they made it impossible to operate my account without some kind of fee attached. How’s that for service? I moved my money to one of the “Big Four” and haven’t looked back, they even give me a fee free account for being a pensioner, something the credit union only offered to the elderly.

  51. When you say “just use ATMs” are you referring to any banks ATMs or the ones that partner with ING Direct, or what?

    I have Charles Schwab, and the only ways that I know to transfer money into the account are to send it through the mail in their pre-paid envelopes (always makes me a LITTLE nervous) or deposit it in my brick and mortar bank and then transfer the money (a pain in the butt because my brick and mortar bank holds onto the money for three days).

    I’d be grateful for further elaboration on the ATM idea.

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