Fiscal Responsibility: The gov't isn't setting me an example. Maybe I can set an example for the gov't.
April 30, 2009 5:25 PM   Subscribe

Personal Fiscal Responsibility. Help me turn over a new leaf (and keep it turned over). Looking for a new bank and some advise.

My track record for being responsible with my money is not very good. Over the past 10ish years I've lived paycheck to paycheck with only a few short stretches of managing my money well. I need some advise in the following directions:
1. A new bank: "Christine" from Wells Fargo just cheerfully agreed with me that my financial life sucks, but the issue in question "wasn't the bank's error" so she was going go ahead and let Wells Fargo fuck me over $80. I'm sick of Wells Fargo's bullshit banking practices*.
I've looked through previous askme's but some of them are pretty old (ie recommending BoA). I've heard about ING Orange Checking seemed to be all the rage a couple of years ago, is it still good? Are their better alternatives? Requirements for a bank account would be: no minimum amounts required, no annual fee (unless having direct deposit gets it waived), free electronic transfers to other peoples bank's accounts at other banks.

2. Tips, tricks, advice, links to blogs (besides get rich slowly already know about that one) or classes in the Seattle area, on small personal finance management, how to curb spending, but most of all how to stick to it.

3. I currently have only student loans and I am concerned the fact that I do not having any credit is going to screw me over when I eventually need to get a car of my own (currently using my sisters until november). I have tossed around the idea of getting a credit card for a dedicated expense (like gas). Bad idea? How would this work with money management?

*I asked why they took out my withdrawls largest to smaller and she said it was because most people don't want their largest checks to bounce. I asked why it would matter when WF doesn't actually seem to bounce checks, they just "overdraft" the account and she told me it was because they can technically return checks if they choose to and they might want to (at some ill-defined point) decide to return a bounced check instead of charging overdrafts.
posted by silkygreenbelly to Work & Money (14 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Ditch the banksters and join a credit union. They usually have counselors with whom you can talk.
posted by torquemaniac at 5:35 PM on April 30, 2009 [3 favorites]

3: If you can already acknowledge that your financial management is lacking, you DO NOT want to get a credit card. The utility of one will quickly be outweighed by the hassle of stuffing it up.
posted by pompomtom at 5:36 PM on April 30, 2009

As regards #2, read Your Money Or Your Life. Don't just read it; do the exercises. I've been doing it for a month now and it seems to me both effective and empowering.
posted by springbound at 5:44 PM on April 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

I asked why they took out my withdrawls largest to smaller and she said it was because most people don't want their largest checks to bounce.

I have never seen a bank deduct them in any other order. Cynically, I believe this is because it allows them to get the largest number of NSF fees when someone screws up . . . but that's just the way it is. It's kinda hard to blame them when you consider that you shouldn't be writing checks that cause this situation to matter in the first place.
posted by toomuchpete at 5:45 PM on April 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

#2 I would definitely set up an account with Mint which helps you track all your spending and set up budgets (and its free!)

Also, I would start reading the consumerist, they usually have personal financial roundups of interesting articles from other blogs, along with how to deal with bad customer service (hello wells fargo)
posted by zara at 5:48 PM on April 30, 2009

2nding credit union. Wells Fargo sucks big time. My boyfriend has the same problems with them jacking around his deposits/withdrawals, and the order.
posted by fructose at 5:48 PM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

You need to begin saving, even if it's just $5-10 per week. Living paycheck to the next as you have, you're going to be fighting overdrafts forever... or until you can get some cushion. If you want to find another bank, fine, open two accounts. One for checking and the other to keep this money you're going to begin saving. Have your paychecks direct deposited with most going to your checking to live on, and that $5-10/week going into the savings account. That way you never see it and aren't tempted to spend it.

Have the bank tie these two accounts together with the savings being your insurance against an overdraft. Then you're paying for an overdraft out of your own money, and not incurring those outrageous bank fees. If you do have to reduce your savings account because of a checking account mistake, MAKE SURE TO PUT IT BACK. It doesn't do any good to separate the monies if you don't let your savings continue to build.

Time will come when you'll get a raise. Make a commitment to put at least 25% of that raise into savings so it will continue to grow. In summary, you have to break the cycle of week to week, check to check. The best way to do that is to put a little of that check somewhere else. Good luck to you. Just tell yourself you're insuring your future.
posted by netbros at 5:55 PM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Skip the fancy Web 2.0 sites ala Mint in favor of a simple spreadsheet. Track the money and and out. See where your money is coming from and where it is going. Setup simple budgets. Don't spend money you don't have.

My spreadsheet tracks all my money coming in and going out. I separate my money into mini faux accounts -- things like Rent, Utilities, Entertainment, Savings; anything I regularly spend money on -- that I replenish with a set amount each month. When I pay those bills, or spend money falling into those categories, I take the money (which is really all the same money pigeonholed into the different accounts) out. Pay yourself, too. That's one of my budgets: me. It's money that I can do whatever I want with and not feel guilty about it, because I know all of my bills are covered.

The fancy sites like Mint are good eye candy, but I've found it's more than I need and proves to be more distracting than it is helpful. Start simple, and graduate to the fancy tools (if you want to) once you have the basics of keeping a budget down.
posted by nitsuj at 5:56 PM on April 30, 2009

Best answer: Since no one's commented on ING Orange yet.... I started up with them Fall of last year, and since then the interest rate on my savings account has plummeted 2% (incrementally). Watching that fall is pretty depressing, but I don't know if any other banks have fared any better. I don't have any personal complaints against them beyond that, but I can think of a whole bunch of negatives for your situation...

You do need an external (real bank, if you will) checking account to link to it, so I don't know if using Orange would really be the best solution for you. Also, transfers take 2 days to arrive, and longer (5 days) to be available for withdrawal, so that may affect you if you're in a pinch. I use my own checking account for paying immediate bills, but it seems like it's a hassle to get a real check to someone using ING.

Again, this is just my personal summary, please do some research on banks to find which would fit your needs best.
posted by hellogoodbye at 7:33 PM on April 30, 2009

Best answer: I figured out about this stuff before there were websites, and spreadsheets were a luxury (hey, Lotus123!) so I can't give you any tips about those. Instead:

1. Don't deposit or cash your paycheck the instant you get it. Wait a day, then next paycheck, wait two, then a week, then two weeks. There, you have some savings. Put this in a separate account.

2. If you owe money, you're always working for the past and what's done. If you have savings, you're working for the present and future, which is much freer. (You can change your future, but not your past.)

3. Always open your mail right away. It's not going to get better if you let it sit.

4. Learn to be honest about yourself about what you need vs. what you want. You don't need much. If you merely want it, wait until you can get the one you really want, without owing for it.

5. There is a lot to be said about having less stuff. There is less to break, less that can get stolen, less to move. Also, events like eating out and movies get boring if you do them all the time. Save them for special treats.

6. It's better to have some money than to look like you have money because you spent it all. If someone doesn't like your Old Navy jeans or whatever, fuck 'em.

I hope this doesn't sound like I'm lecturing, because I learned all of this the hard way!
posted by zinfandel at 8:31 PM on April 30, 2009

If you already know of Get Rich Slowly, I think you probably also know about The Simple Dollar, but just in case. I read both regularly.

You won't find a bank that takes checks in any other order--that's pretty standard. You might check with a local credit union to see if they have a different policy, but I doubt it. I bank with Chase and Sovereign, and I'm very happy with both--I pay no fees on any account and have no minimum balance requirements (Sovereign doesn't have one at all, Chase waived it with direct deposit).

I also recommend Your Money or Your Life and Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace or Total Money Makeover (disclaimer: he's very evangelical Christian and it comes through in the writing. If you can handle that or look past it, his financial advice for getting out of debt is pretty solid). Or Suze Orman--I'm not personally a fan but my sister swears by her (and maybe her 2009 action plan would be a good place to start?). Ramit Sethi's I Will Teach You To Be Rich (blog by the same name) are getting a lot of buzz, though his approach is a bit grating for me. I'd read a couple different gurus to see which one resonates the most with you--the best plan is one that you like and will stick with.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 7:02 AM on May 1, 2009

Response by poster: zinfandel, number 1 is great. At first I thought it wouldn't work for me because my employer requires direct deposit, but I think it would work if I switch the DD to go into my savings and then wait a day, then two etc before transferring it into checking.
posted by silkygreenbelly at 6:56 PM on May 3, 2009

Response by poster: Oh, and I opened a account with a credit union.
posted by silkygreenbelly at 6:58 PM on May 3, 2009

Response by poster: If anyone else sees this and has more comments or ideas, the more the merrier.
posted by silkygreenbelly at 6:59 PM on May 3, 2009

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