Who Else Remembers Having a Savings Account Passbook?

I must be feeling especially nostalgic today because I want to talk about bank accounts. And the passing of passbooks. I’m going to bet that you remember having one.


It’s not that long ago that anyone, even a kid, could walk into a savings bank, open an account and be issued a cute little navy blue book about half the size of a passport, in which to record deposits and withdrawals.

The way it worked was that whenever you wanted to put money into your savings account, you’d go to the bank, hand the teller the little passbook where he or she would write in the amount deposited, the date and then seal the deal with the official stamp.

Even better, there was a column where, from time to time, the teller would add interest to the account balance. Yes! Interest. Banks actually paid handsome rates of interest (by today’s standard) on basic savings accounts. You could see compounding interest* in action. The whole process was so satisfying. That little passbook was proof positive that you had money in the bank and were being rewarded for it.

While things have certainly changed in the world of consumer banking, I’m pretty excited to tell you that at least one bank out there is doing all it can to bring back the features of saving and earning interest that we found so satisfying in years gone by.

I can’t promise you a cute little navy blue passbook, but I think that if you are saving money and are also a devoted debit-card user, you are going to be very interested in what follows.

Northpointe Bank, based in Michigan, is offering one of the best bank account deals that I’ve seen in a very long time. 


It Pays to Pay Attention

Do you know the scanning error policies of the stores and restaurants you frequent most often? If you’ve never thought about it, you are going to get a big wake-up call with today’s first great reader tip! These days, we just cannot be too careful.


CATCHING ERRORS PAYS. We just caught $80 dollars in clerical errors in two days. Three were at the grocery store. I got double charged for an item and an item on clearance was going to be charged full price because they forgot to black out the barcode. At another grocery store I was supposed to get a half pound of cheese if I bought a pound of meat. I bought the full pound, but they did not take off the cheese. Another error happened to my husband when he bought a two dollar measuring cup. The clerk did not give him a receipt, but did proceed to charge him $69. This was caught on camera. She put the next person’s purchase on his card. All these errors were corrected because we were paying attention. Lesson learned: Check your receipts immediately and online bank statements daily. These errors can add up quickly. Margaret

SECRET CODE. Do not carry your Social Security card with you. Memorize the number. If you don’t have confidence to do that, put it in code form, i.e. a long string of numbers where the individual numbers of your SS number are hidden in the 1st, 3rd, 5th or such places in the number chain etc, etc.  Do this on a 3 x 5 card with no title. Now anyone finding it will have no clue what significance this number chain has. John


Sometimes You Need Magic to Remove Stubborn Stains

DEAR MARY: I can’t get the coffee stains out of the basket of my Mr. Coffee coffee maker, nor can I get the coffee stain off the carafe lid. It’s white plastic. I tried soaking in bleach and cleanser, but none of that worked. Can you help? Margaret


DEAR MARGARET: If those stains are old having now penetrated the plastic, they may be permanent, which may be the reason the black option is best when buying a coffee maker. However, before you surrender, try this: Moisten a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser with water and gently scrub those stained areas. These sponges are fantastic at removing all kinds of stains and are safe to use on nearly every surface. I can’t guarantee this will restore the stained white plastic back to its new appearance, but it’s your best hope at this point. Good luck!

DEAR MARY: I accidentally splattered hair dye on my new white sink cabinet. I have tried Awesome, a paste of baking soda and vinegar, bleach, blue Dawn and rubbing alcohol. Those efforts faded the stain a bit, but it’s still there. Do you have any solution short of having the repaint this cabinet? Jeannette

DEAR JEANNETTE: You need a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, too (see above)! I can’t guarantee it will work, but I’m very hopeful.

The secret behind these types of erasers is a material commonly called melamine foam. With just a little water, melamine foam can dig in and destroy stains that other products can’t touch. Mr. Clean sells its line of melamine foam as Magic Erasers, Scotch-Brite calls the same thing the Easy Erasing Pad.

If you are diligent you could figure out where to buy a big sheet of melamine foam and then cut it into the size and shape scrubbers you want, one sheet would be good for more than enough erasers to last for your lifetime and your friends’ too!


How I Inadvertently Saved the Day for One Historic San Francisco Hotel

In the two decades since founding Debt-Proof Living (formerly Cheapskate Monthly), I’ve logged more than 1.5 million air miles for book tours, speaking events and television and radio shows. It’s been and continues to be great fun and I have mostly loved every moment.

As you might imagine, many funny things have happened to me on my travels. But none can top what happened in San Francisco.


The year was 1998. I was in San Francisco to appear on a local television show. The producer had asked me to bring props that would create some visual interest as I would be demonstrating some of the great tips I’d been publishing in my monthly newsletter.

I arrived the evening before and checked into one of San Francisco’s finest historic downtown hotels before taking a cab to a local grocery store to pick up the props I would need for the show. I wanted the biggest sizes I could find of things like baking soda and white vinegar. I figured that would be easier than trying to carry all of that on the plane.

Knowing I would need only visual representations, I decided to empty all of the containers in order to lighten my load and make the trip to the studio the following day a bit more manageable. After all, I only needed the containers, not the contents.

Despite the fact that I would be wasting a lot of perfectly good stuff, in the interest of convenience and ease, I dumped the large box of baking soda into the toilet and flushed. A few minutes later, I poured a gallon of white vinegar down the toilet and flushed again.


What to Do When There’s More Month Than Money

You’ve lost your job or for some other reason don’t have enough money to pay all of your bills. Which bills should you pay first and which ones can slide for a while?


Here’s a basic rule of thumb according to the Boston-based National Consumer Law Center in its book, Surviving Debt:

“Always pay essential expenses and debts first. If any money is left, you can decide which nonessential debts, if any, to keep in your expense budget.”

An essential debt represents a serious obligation that if not paid could produce severe, even life-threatening consequences.

Do not make payments on nonessential debts when you have not paid essential ones even if your nonessential creditors are breathing down your neck.

Please do not misunderstand! I am not suggesting that you should just walk away from your financial obligations. You must pay your creditors, you must pay your bills. To not pay them is not an option. Of course it is not ideal to let some of your bills slide for awhile. But your situation is what it is. In time, as things improve (they will) you will be able to get caught up completely. But for now, you need to know how to get through this month.

Once you’ve determined which debts are essential, prioritize them according to the severity of the consequences you will suffer for non-payment. Here is a guide to follow, listed by priority.


10 Ways to Say I Love That Don’t Cost a Dime

Long ago in my stupid days I went nuts with credit cards. I ran up a 6-figure debt over a 12-year period. I did pay all of it back plus interest and fees and it was anything but easy. I’m still shocked and embarrassed I let it happen.


The funny thing is I didn’t make any really huge purchases. I didn’t max out a $10,000 credit limit with a single purchase or anything that extravagant. It was just a constant accumulation of smaller purchases exposed to double-digit interest rates and sloppy money management. The truth is I five- and ten-‘dollared’ myself and my family into a kind of financial death.

In love it’s the little things that add up, too. But in a good way. Sure the big efforts are appreciated, but quite frankly it’s the little day-to-day things we do that make a difference.

I’m not going to discourage you from buying your beloved flowers for Valentine’s Day or making his favorite meal and serving it by candlelight in the bedroom. Not me! But I do have a few suggestions for things you can do that will score big in the Little Things Do Count Department.

1. Get the kids dressed so your spouse can spend an hour in the bathroom by herself. Tell her at least a little bit ahead of time so she can enjoy the anticipation as well.

2. In an uncharacteristic move, take out the trash even though you’ve received no reminder and there’s still a little room left. Repeat often.


Some Smelly Situations Require Extra Toil and Patience

It is rare, but now and then I hear from a reader who is frustrated using one of my all-time favorite products, Nok-Out. I love Nok-Out because it eliminates odors; it’s non-toxic, fume-free and kills bacteria, too. Awesome stuff.

The feedback I get is mostly filled with praise and gratitude. However, now and then I hear from someone like Linda, who is facing a tough, smelly situation that because of its  location, requires more toil and patience.


DEAR MARY: I have been using Nok-Out [also known as SNiPER] very successfully for months. Thank you for the recommendation!

However, now I have cat urine odor on a sofa and a chair. She sprayed on them. (Did you know that a spayed female will spray under stress?) I cannot get the odor out. I have soaked the stains thoroughly, more than once. The stench might go away for a short period, or it might smell like a combo of urine and Nok-Out for awhile (a kind of soapy smell in this case). Then the full odor returns. Help! I can’t stand it! Linda

DEAR LINDA: Oh boy, this is bad! The offending odor (spray) soaked into the stuffing of those pieces of furniture. The Nok-Out has to penetrate successfully to reach every area that was infected. If it was a true “spray” is it possible that cat urine went in all directions, and that perhaps you need to expand the area of treatment?

I am going to send an SOS to Ted Price at Nok-Out asking him to respond with his best shot. I am certain I know why you’re having this problem, but I’m not fully confident of the specific solution for it. Mary

Hang tight while I get the ultimate expert directive on this! 


Water Bath Keeps Lemons Fresh and Other Great Reader Tips

I’m a lucky woman. Once a month my husband and I make a quick trip to California to tend to business, see friends and visit our older son, who just happens to have the most prolific Meyer lemon tree on earth in his back yard.

I try to always bring an empty bag with me so I can load up with these beautiful, tree-ripened lemons. Many thanks to our first reader for her tip for how I can keep my lemons at peak long enough to use them up. I tried it and it works for me!


FRESH LEMONS. if you like to keep lemons on hand even when you don’t have a specific need, submerge them (washed with peel on) in a bowl of water in the refrigerator. You will have fresh lemons for weeks on end. I currently have had a bowl in my refrigerator for two months, and they are beautiful. Wow. What a money saver, and I always have a fresh lemon when needed. Ashley

DRIVE-THRU FIRST. Taking youngsters to a fast food restaurant can be a fun treat, but standing in a long line with an active brood can be stressful. Solution: Drive through first, place your order and request the server put your food on a tray at the counter because you’ll be right in. By the time you park and get everyone inside, you can pick up the tray and go directly to a table. Rhonda

SUPER-QUICK DRY. Need to dry a pair of jeans or pajamas in a hurry? Put them and a completely dry bath towel into the dryer. They’ll be dry in a fraction of the time they would have taken on their own. Patsy