Readers' Tips

Poor Credit and Checking Accounts

In response to this person's request to find a checking account with a bank with bad credit, I did some research on and found this answer and possible solution to their problem.

You have one report for your banking history that is quite different from your credit report. If you have a "clean" banking history, you'll have an easier time opening a bank account.

You can request a free copy of your banking consumer report once a year by visiting Negative information on your banking history report remains for five years, less than for bankruptcy. You have the right to dispute incorrect information on your consumer report.

Not every financial institution uses a banking consumer report to decide whether they want you as a customer. If you don't have a clean report, you'll probably need to find a financial institution that doesn't rely on the report issued by ChexSystems. A credit union can be a good alternative. Some banks offer a "second chance" account for people with troubled banking histories.

Some financial institutions will check a credit report when you apply for a checking account. They want to know if you're a good candidate for borrowing and credit cards. You can ask the institution if it plans to check your credit history.

A less invasive request for information, known as a "soft pull," shouldn't negatively affect your credit score. The other option is called a "hard pull," which is documented as a credit inquiry. Such credit inquiries remain on your credit report for two years but should only influence your credit score during the first year.

editor's note: Visit here for more on poor credit and checking accounts.

Pantry Plus

I always shop with a grocery list, and I know what I should spend each week for groceries. However, there are two areas that I consider exceptions. I always check the store's mark-down rack. Sometimes I find things that I normally use at a big discount. I also look for BOGOs on things that we use. I use the money that I save to buy my family a treat like something special for dessert or a better cut of meat. Generally it's something that we can't normally afford in our food budget.

Another Reason to Volunteer

Volunteer at your church or local food pantry. If you are ever in need of food, with your service, they will often offer you food without having to go through the "channels." Some shelters have to get rid of food that is perishable and getting ready to expire, so even if you aren't in a financial bind at the time, you may be offered some food. It does your mind good to volunteer as well as your checkbook!

Additional TDS Resource: How volunteering can save you money

Spending Control

My husband and I couldn't seem to control our spending. We both used our ATM cards all the time. It got so bad that there were times that I'd go to get cash and find out that he had taken the last money out of the account. You can imagine the fights we had about this! Finally we decided that if we were going to stay married, we needed to do something drastic. We each got a prepaid credit card. Now, we each transfer a certain amount to the card each payday. I get more since I buy our groceries. Not only are we spending less, but the fights have stopped as well!

Additional TDS resource: Find the best prepaid card for you

Cheaper Clean

We had bought some very pricey OxiClean&trade after the local TV news department did a test on it and found that it pretty much works as advertised on the infomercials.

While reading the ingredients, we found that it contains the same cleaner as the cheap dry bleach we had been using for our colored wash. We tried using it as an "all purpose" cleaner and stain remover and found that it works just the same for about one tenth the price.

Just an Hour a Week

My New Year's resolution is working out perfectly! I decided that this year I'd get serious about an emergency fund. In the past, I tried taking whatever was left over at the end of the month and putting it in the savings account that I used for my emergency fund. I think I saved a whole $37 in 2016! I decided that each week I'd work one hour for my fund. I make $21.75 an hour. Each week, I have that much automatically transferred from my checking to my savings account. It might not be a lot, but so far, I've already saved nearly three times as much as I did all of last year!

Cleaning a Comforter

I have a bed comforter that requires dry cleaning only. It's a queen size comforter and would be very expensive to send to the dry cleaners. I experimented, used two wipes, and squirted some Arm & Hammer liquid laundry detergent on them. Next, I spread them on the comforter after I made my bed and wiped down the entire comforter with the wipes. I ran a table fan next to my bed to dry the comforter quickly and thoroughly. The comforter came out clean with no harm done to the fabric.

Additional TDS Resource: Cleaning down-filled clothes and bedding

Bathroom Counter-Tops

After watching all those home improvement shows, we decided to update our master bath. I wanted a granite counter-top but didn't like the prices I was getting. Therefore, I asked one company if they had any unused smaller pieces that were just big enough for my job but not big enough for a whole kitchen. They had a bunch of them. I found one that I liked and saved a bunch of money. I saved enough to make it easier to splurge on the shower set I wanted to buy!

Better Pet Food

We had been feeding our dog special puppy food, but he was getting past the puppy stage. I asked my vet when we should switch to adult dog food and he suggested that we keep using the puppy food. He said that it has more vitamins and that was good for any dog.

Additional TDS Resource: Making homemade dog food

Ceramic Stove Top Cleaning

If you have a ceramic top stove, you don't have to buy expensive cleaners for the occasional spill. When you have a spill that burns on, first scrape off what you can with a single-edge razor blade as recommended by the manufacturer. Then lay a damp rag over the spill and let it sit for a few minutes. Remove the rag, spray with window cleaner, and let it sit briefly. Then use a nylon sponge to gently wipe off the residue. This works every time.
Barbara in SC

If You Lose Your Job

Losing a job is never easy, but there are some things that you can do to reduce the financial strain. First, call your credit card companies and ask if they have any special payment options. Then do the same thing with your auto loan and home mortgage.
Deb C.

Additional TDS Resource: 13 steps to preparing for a layoff

Student Loan Limits

Many adults realize they've over-borrowed when the student loan bills begin. Young adults don't realize or look long term to what payments will be. Currently, we are shopping for colleges with our oldest. One thing we will do is calculate what the estimated payment\term will be. $30k doesn't sound like a lot, but $300/month for ten years does, as does $600/month for five years. You get the idea. That is a nice car payment or an apartment. Also, instead of saying, "I need to borrow only $15k a year," you should say it in terms of "I need to borrow $60k for four years (or $75k for five years). That sounds a lot different.
Tami in NY

Additional TDS Resource: 5 ways to save on student loans

Avoiding Coinstar Fees

Since my bank quit taking coins, I began to use the Coinstar machine at my grocery store, but I didn't like paying their fees (about 11%)! Then I realized that if I accepted a gift card instead of cash, I could avoid the fees. I usually get one for Amazon, but they have about three dozen different places with which they work. Now, I get my coins changed without fees just like before.

Bridal Shower Fun

Three of my friends are getting married this summer. It looks like I'll probably be hosting one of the bridal showers, so I've already started to think of what I want to include in the shower. One thing that we did at a friend's shower last year will for sure be part of the one I'm planning. We hung a clear plastic shower curtain in the bath along with various permanent colored markers. A sign was clipped to it inviting people to draw or write whatever they wanted on the shower curtain. At the end of the party, we gave it to the bride. It was a great memento for her!

Additional TDS Resource: More wedding shower ideas

Snow Sculpture

My husband and I like to be creative for Valentine's Day. Last year, he did something really wonderful. We live in Upper Michigan. There's plenty of snow on the ground, so he made a huge heart with our initials on it in our front yard. It was about ten feet high! All of the neighbors saw it. It was clearly visible for days until the next snowfall. I don't know how he could top it this year, but knowing him, he'll probably try!

Additional TDS Resource: More affordable Valentine's ideas

Shingles As a Groundcover Comment

I would be very careful about using old roof shingles. Some may contain asbestos and other contamination. A much safer and effective weed barrier is newspaper. I use it with a light covering of mulch. The newspaper will last several years under the mulch. Just need to put down several layers.

editor's response: We did some research on asbestos and shingles. Here's what we found: "while asbestos was commonly used in many asphalt roofing materials, asbestos was rarely used in the shingles themselves. It is acknowledged by the asphalt shingle manufacturers that between 1963 and the mid-1970s, some manufacturers did use asbestos in the fiber mat of shingles. Manufacturer information on how many asbestos-containing shingles were sold is not available, but the amount of asbestos used in shingles was typically less than 1% and it was only in a small portion of the manufacturers' production."

Naturally, we wanted to know whether any of those shingles could still be on roofs, so we checked the lifespan of asphalt shingles. They're expected to last 15 to 18 years. Therefore, a shingle made in 1975 would probably have been replaced by 1995. It's doubtful that many are around 20 years later. But W. makes a valid point. If you still get a newspaper, they made a good groundcover, too.

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