150 Tips: Cash-Back Credit Card Fine Print, Mental Tricks to Save More, Stuff Broke People Say (That Keep Them Broke), and More

  • Share
  • Read Later

Here’s what this week’s scouring of the web for good (or at least amusing) personal finance advice has yielded:
3 small banks paying big yields on checking accounts. There are usually multiple stipulations to qualify for these high-yield accounts, but the payoff for jumping through all the hoops is an interest rate that puts the typical 0.10% reward to shame. For example:

At Integrity Bank of Houston, Texas, which has $213 million in assets, yields on balances of up to $25,000 fetch a 4.01% yield. Customers must, however, make 10 or more qualifying debit transactions in each monthly cycle, receive electronic statements and have at least one direct deposit or direct debit each monthly cycle. You need $100 to open the account but there is no minimum balance.

5 easy psychological tips for spending less. Let’s hope you know someone who has some self-control, because …

When you are faced with the temptation to splurge, it can help if you stop and think about someone you know who has lots of self-control – someone who is financially responsible. Self-control is actually contagious, and studies show that just thinking about someone who has it can boost your own.

5 secrets of successful savers. Sure, they have self-control, but they also pay attention to what’s going on in the financial world:

A survey by HSBC Direct found that people they call “active savers,” which make up about one in five Americans, tend to pay attention to financial news. That might help them maintain a general awareness and savviness about money, and also teach them about basic principles such the importance of not trying to time the market, and finding accounts that don’t charge hefty fees.

5 smart ways to cut smartphone costs. Again, self-control and awareness pay off. First, you must be aware of how much you use your phone to help you choose a wireless plan that offers the most bang for your usage. This isn’t easy to figure out, mind you: The majority of wireless customers overpay for a plan they don’t need, mainly because they’d rather avoid even a remote possibility of getting hit with overage fees. Speaking of which, once you pick a plan, there may come a time when some self-control is needed to avoid overage fees. And again, awareness helps:

Usually, data is less costly than voice. The key is tracking usage so you don’t get slapped with costly extra charges. One way to do that is to download free “minute tracker” apps for your iPhone. AT&T and Verizon also offer online data calculators that you can use to analyze usage to target the best plan.

5 spending tips that don’t fit everyone. Just as different wireless plans suit different customers, different money-saving tips work (or don’t work) for different consumers. For instance, more and more consumers seem to be following the advice to cut up the credit cards and go cash only. I can’t imagine our household doing so anytime soon, and I’m not alone:

I know that for those with spending problems or who can’t pay off their debts in a responsible way, a credit card is the ultimate in temptation. (I’ve been there. I understand.) For those who have managed to keep their credit cards as a part of a healthy financial portfolio, however, there is no need to slice and dice your plastic.

6 steps to get free cash from banks. Basically, it comes down to examining the fine print, doing the math, and weighing the cash incentives for new customers against the fees that are sure to follow. Before signing up with a bank to take advantage of cash or other rewards promised to new customers, consider the following:

Some of these offers will be tied to accounts that require yearly fees, and may only be valid after a year of participation. These offers are significantly less valuable than they appear, and therefore need to be lowered in the pecking order.

Because a bank’s primary goal is lure in new customers, they will often use free gifts to coax them into higher maintenance accounts, as opposed to standard checking or savings accounts. While most accounts cost nothing to open or maintain, some have annual fees, making the gift significantly less valuable. Run the fee against the gift being offered to decide whether or not it is worth your time.

7 loopholes to be aware of with cash-back credit cards.
As with any financial product, reading the fine print (do you see a pattern here?) is essential to avoiding unpleasant surprises. Popular cash-back credit cards, which pay up to 5% back on some purchases, typically come with strict limits and may not be as rewarding as they seem at first glance:

Many cards have limits on the amount of cash rebate you can earn with these special 5% rebate offers. The Chase Freedom card has a maximum $75 cash back you can earn each quarter. With the Discover More card, earn up to 5% on up to $800 in purchases during January through March in the selected categories. The Citi Platinum Select card offers a maximum of $300 in rebates per year. The American Express Blue Cash has no limit on the amount of rebate you can earn.

7 tips for saving your life (by eating dinner as a family). The message is simply to find the time and figure out how to cook and share meals as a family. It’ll dramatically improve your family’s health, relationships, and finances compared to non-stop takeout and foods scarfed down in front of the TV. And seeing as you’re saving money preparing food rather than paying someone to prepare it for you, feel free to buy quality ingredients:

Americans currently spend less than10 percent of their income on food, while most European’s spend about 20 percent of their income on food. We will be more nourished by good food than by more stuff. And we will save ourselves much money and costs over our lifetime.

10 jobs less likely to be outsourced. Note that nobody is saying there’s a guarantee that any job won’t be outsourced. But if anyone’s safe, it’s the folks in fields such as:

Heating/air-conditioning technician. Requirements: Complete a six-month to two-year program on heating, air-conditioning and refrigeration at a technical school, trade school, junior college or community college. Pay: Median hourly wages of heating, air-conditioning and refrigeration mechanics and installers were $19.08 per hour in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $14.94 and $24.84 an hour.

10 best part-time jobs with benefits. They may not pay the best, but these employers pay off in other ways. Example:

REI – A truly worker-friendly company, the outdoor gear retailer provides benefits for employees who work less than 20 hours a week. These benefits include health, dental, life and disability plans, as well as incentive pay and a retirement and profit sharing plan. Being a weekend warrior at this store can really pay off. See REI jobs.

10 signs to avoid a scam. Don’t give a second’s thought to unsolicited mail, e-mails, and phone calls. Also, if it sounds too good to be true …

Promises of extremely simple ways to earn or win money Let’s get this straight right now. You can’t sit down at home and immediately start earning thousands of dollars (not without a lot of luck or someone helping you tremendously). You can’t get a bunch of money for a little amount of money with any guarantee. These things simply don’t work – they don’t make basic economic sense. If you’re offered anything that seems to offer an incredibly easy way to add money to your pocket, just walk away.

22 ways to listen to music free online. Yes, they’re even legal too. The resources listed include:

It probably depends on what you want. When I search Mr. Bungle, it comes up with all three widely released records. Le Tigre comes up aces, Ornette Coleman yields a giant catalogue, Ani DiFranco and Crass the same.

25 good things that can be bad for you. Food, for one. See “family dinner” suggestion above. But also laws and medication and choice. Wait, choice? Yep, too many options—salad dressings, colleges, cell phones (and plans), credit cards, and so on—can paralyze the consumer, and ultimately make him less happy about decisions:

Consumers may now have a more robust selection, but the abundance of options can also be overwhelming, leading them not to buy at all or be less satisfied with their decisions—a concept called the “paradox of choice,” according to a report by the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. The result is we can be overwhelmed or lose sight of what we need.

30 things broke people say that keep them broke. A few examples:

If I earn interest, I have to pay more taxes.

It’s for the kids.

I need to invest in a car.

Whatever you want, dear.