November 5th is Bank Transfer Day, when everyone who keeps their money in big, for-profit banks is supposed to close their accounts and move them to a not-for-profit credit union (CU). This is different than the run on banks that preceded the Great Depression, since nobody is recommending you put your cash under a mattress. Instead, you’re moving it from one type financial institution to another.
I’m not a huge fan of the Guy Fawkes stuff (the guy was sort of a terrorist), but this event simply makes financial sense, politics aside. Since executives at Credit Unions aren’t making big bucks like their colleagues in the for-profit banks, they’re able to offer lower rates on loans, higher rates on savings accounts, and other perks, such as reimbursing you for other banks’ ATM fees. In short, their business model isn’t built around squeezing every last penny out of you, because credit unions don’t answer to Wall Street.
My biggest gripe with CU’s used to be lack of ATMs, but if you bank with a CU that belongs to the co-op network, you have almost 30,000 ATMs to choose from.
I recommend a slow approach to changing banks. It takes a month, but if you forget about any auto-pay stuff being deducted from your old account, it won’t bounce.
Here’s how to make the switch:
Find a credit union near you and open an account there. Deposit a good part of your money at the CU, but not all. The amounts are up to you.
Cancel all automatic withdrawals & deposits from your old bank and move them to the new bank. (This is the most time-consuming step)
Wait a month, and check your old bank account to see if any auto-pay deductions occurred.
Transfer the rest of your money out of your old account and close it.
Anyone planning to (or recently did) a bank transfer? I was lucky enough to start out at a credit union, though I did have the experience of switching from one credit union to another (FirstTech to BECU). It was mostly painless.
Halloween should be fun, so even though collecting 5 pounds of mass-market, chemical-laden, tooth-decay materials isn’t the greatest idea for a child, it would take a certain kind of mean parent to say NO to all that.
Luckily, there’s a way to let your child go trick-or-treating, and let them enjoy the fruit of their labor* without the feeling that you’re betraying your values just to not rock the boat:
The Switch Witch!
The Switch Witch is the Tooth Faerie’s mischievous sister. She goes to random houses on Halloween night, after children are asleep. She steals all their candy (except what they already ate that night) and switches it for cash! How much? Enough that your kids won’t be upset that their candy is gone. It’s going to depend on their age and how much experience they have with estimating the value of goods.
What you—I mean The Switch Witch—does with the candy after that is up to you…
* Knocking on a stranger’s door can be very difficult for a child, so to them, they’re working hard.
Clean out your house, purge your belongings of anything you haven’t used in five years
Eliminate clutter on you desk
Eliminate time wasting activities
Eliminate two things for every new thing you acquire
Hire some help, housekeeper, gardener, etc.
Know your limitations
Learn to identify and toss junk mail before it even gets to your desk
Learn to say no
Let go of perfectionism
Let go of the past
Live frugally, want less
Limit time you spend on any given activity (TV, media, Internet)
Move closer to work
Sever unhealthy relationships
Simplify your financial life and consolidate debt
Simplify your online life
Tell the truth
Turn off your cell phone [and anything else with a screen]
To expand on the “simplify your financial life” tip, I’d suggest taking a look at everything you spend in a month (you’re tracking your expenses, right? A topic for another post). Find things to eliminate: cable and netflix bills, ATM fees, the daily cup of coffee. Be steadfast but realistic.
I just found out about this amazing new service. It’s like Netflix but it also has books and music. It also compels you to get exercise and to meet your neighbors. And best of all, it’s totally free!
Ok, I lied about it being new and about just discovering it. The service is called the Seattle Public Library and it’s one of the most amazing parts of living in this city. Even if our neighborhood branch looks a little silly:
Making the switch from being a media buyer/renter, to a patron of the library isn’t going to save you huge bucks (when we canceled our netflix subscription, it was like $7 a month). The biggest change is accepting the idea that one need not own something to get full enjoyment out of it. Borrowing it for a few weeks is good enough.
In other words, you no longer need to stockpile media in your home. Our CD collection fits in a few CD booklets. Our movie collection fits in a drawer, with room to spare:
Our bookshelf is tucked in the corner of the bedroom, and mostly contains books that fall under the category of “stuff I’d like the kids to read when they’re a little older,” starting with The Hobbit, and working up to Cryptonomicon.
The exercise part comes from the fact that the library has no parking so I usually walk or ride my bike there. And getting to know your neighbors is just an effortless side-effect of being in a public place every so often.
You’re already paying for your local public library through taxes, so you might as well enjoy the benefits!