Getting the Most from Your Bank

Keep Close Track of Your Banking

Dealing with Banks can be Difficult

Dealing with banks can be a necessary evil for the forcibly frugal. Especially since the financial crisis of 2008 and the consolidations that happened in the finacial sector, more and more banks are charging for services that used to be free. Finding truly free checking is getting harder and harder. But it can still be done if you are willing to do a little work.

One Improvement

There has been one improvement, such as the opt-out on an debit card overage fees. This means that they can’t set a very small “grace” credit and charge you a large fee for using something you don’t want. Now, the default is to turn down the card if you go over what you have actually available. Just ask about the opt out at your financial institution.

What Can You Do

The best option is a local credit union. According to Wikipedia “A credit union is a cooperative financial institution that is owned and controlled by its members and operated for the purpose of promoting thrift, providing credit at reasonable rates, and providing other financial services to its members. Many credit unions exist to further community development or sustainable international development on a local level.” This means that the money in your credit union account will stay in your community. And many credit unions have free checking with your savings “shares”. Many also offer other services such as car loans and even “share to share” loans where one member can put up collateral for another member (who would not qualify on their own,) to get a loan. For more information on the credit union difference check out http://www.cuna.org/gov_affairs/legislative/cu_difference.html If you want to find a credit union go to http://www.findacreditunion.com/Home_Page_2.html

But No Matter What Bank You Choose

You absolutley must keep track of every penny in your account to avoid overdraft fees. The fact that many banks engage in predatory behavior makes it even more important to keep close watch on your balance. It might be a good idea to not use checks at all, but rather to use the opt-out noted above on your debit card, and use just the card and cash. Cash doesn’t bouce, and your debit card can’t overdraw if your opt-out. The only thing to be careful of is using the card as a credit card when the creditor doesn’t input the charge right away. That is why you must always balance your checking account as you go. If you have access to a computer and a Quickbooks program you can set up your personal finances like a business and track your checking that way.

Frugal Gardening—Seed Saving Saves Money and is Good for the Planet

Seeds from this Year's Harvest

Now that spring is officially here it is time to really get moving on those gardening projects. As every frugalista knows, gardening combined with cooking at home is the most frugal, healthiest and most fun way to deal with the problem of feeding ourselves and our families. So, how do you do it? Unfortunately, as a culture we have lost many of the basic living skills that our ancestors took for granted. This is a huge loss, but there is a great movement to regain that lost knowledge.

The basic method of growing plant starts from a package of seeds is to put them in small biodegradable pots indoors on a sunny table. The little plants are very delicate at first and need to be protected from too much wind or sun. They generally need to be kept wet. But, if you are buying packets, there are directions. Just follow them carefully. If this is the first time you’ve tried this that may be the way to go. But—if you want to support the seed saving movement you need to find a seed bank unless you have friends that are seed savers already. A seed bank is a repository of seeds that other gardeners have contributed. You can make a withdraawel and plant the seeds that you receive.

There are is a large seed bank in the mid-west, and many regions now have small local banks. To find a local organization, try doing an online search for seed bank followed by the name of your region. Most seed saving groups have regular meetings and very helpful members.

When you graduate to actually saving seed it gets trickier. The best thing is to contact your local seed bank and get advice from them. If you have received seed from a seed-bank, it is also good to offer some seed back. The seed saving movement is a great example of the gif economy at work. It is very interactive—with the natural elements, with the plants and the soil, and with the people in the seed saving community.

If you want to give it a try, check out these links:

http://www.seedsavers.org/ go here first

http://www.seedsave.org/

http://www.vegetablegardener.com/item/10380/seed-banks-and-seed-lending-libraries

 

The Gardener in Winter

Not as Barren as it Looks

This is the first time The Frugal Goddess has discussed gardening. It may seem odd to bring it up in the dead of winter, at least in the northern hemisphere. But, as any good gardener knows, there is much activity beneath the barren surface. Now is the time to plan, and having planned, to prepare. Are there fences or gopher control systems that need repairing? Soil that needs attention? Is the potting shed in good order? And, most importantly, have the seed catalogs come in?

Sitting by a fire on a cold winter evening with a nice cup of tea (or glass of Zinfandel) and a pile of seed catalogs is a great pleasure. That is one of the wonders of gardening. Each year we can invent ourselves anew. But let us not stop with catalogs. In many places there are seed banks that rely on community participation. In this tough economy we rely more upon our neighbors, and seed sharing is a terrific way to be neighborly. But it goes even deeper than that. By sharing seeds you are part of a long lineage of people who have carefully preserved the food-wealth of our species. This is perhaps the greatest wealth we have. So, as you plan this year’s garden, take a minute and imagine all the tillers of soil that have gone before you down the long years of our history. And may your garden grow in great abundance.

 

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