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New year, new savings?

After weeks of an endless news cycle about the government shutdown and how many Americans live paycheck to paycheck, the neurotic money squirrel in me (you know, the one that gathers pennies instead of nuts…) was compelled to review our banking choices, savings, etc.

You know, once upon a time there was basically just one Big Online Bank, and we used them for our savings for years. Then interest rates plummeted and other banks came along and eventually we ended up switching. So here’s the good news, if you have some money to save (I know not everyone does, though even a few dollars a month is a good goal if you can manage it): Right now CIT Bank is offering a Savings Builder account with up to 2.45% APY, which is the highest I’ve been able to find. The other good news was that I already had an account at CIT, so I was stoked!

The bad news is that my account was a regular Money Market one and when I inquired, I was directed to open a new account, transfer funds, and close the old one, rather than something more straightforward and customer-friendly, because yes, part of how they make money is by not having the best customer service in the world. Anyway.

Want that rate? Open an account with at least $100 and either put in at least $100 each month or maintain a minimum daily balance of $25,000 (yes, I realize the first option is probably a lot more doable than the second one). It’s easy enough to link to your “everyday” bank account(s) (that’s how I fund mine) and a great way to sock away a little nest egg with the highest earnings currently available.

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A quick note about this week

Good morning! Today heralds the beginning of Black Friday Week, and for many many (many many many) years that has meant another Big Prize Week here at Want Not. Even though I have been posting here less often for a while, I went ahead and ran one last year while I was in play rehearsals and working and trying to do Thanksgiving with the family.

Welp. This year, I am sad to say, I just can’t do it. I’m hosting a houseful of people, I’m in rehearsals again, and the reality is that during Want Not’s heyday (meaning, back when I was an expert online shopper but not many people were), Black Friday Week made me a lot of money (more than enough to buy y’all a fat gift card or a shiny new electronic gizmo as thanks), but that’s no longer the case. Last year when I ended the week with an Amazon gift card? I ended up spending more money than I made. Which, you know, is something I was okay doing, and I’m not complaining. But for a multitude of reasons it is no longer financially feasible for me to do that.

But! Don’t despair, because I do have a few product samples coming in this month and next, and I’ll still give those away. I just don’t have the usual assortment of goodies, so it’s not going to be a whole week-long thing. And in the meantime, there will still be plenty of amazing deals to scope out ahead of the holidays. I hope you’ll stick around.

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Irma footnote

Hello! I’m alive! As is the rest of my family. Hooray!

We just got power back after three days, and we still have a lot of clean-up to do, but I wanted to pop in and let y’all know I’m not dead and I’ll be back soonish. I hope everyone else is safe and dry and otherwise well.

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A quick note (not dead!)

I know posting has been verrrry sloooowwwww here lately, and I apologize. We were dealing with some family stuff, and right now we are in the middle of one of those storms which is predicted to grind life to a halt here in the south.

My entire Facebook feed looks like this:
Southerner: I have milk and bread!!
Northerner: You know, we have storms worse than that in the summer.
Southerner: But ice! Tree branches! BRB, doing laundry!
Northerner: Get some salt trucks, wimps.
Southerner: POWER OUTAGES! CHARGE ALL THE THINGS!

So… yeah. Back in a few days, I hope.

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The easiest way to do Toys For Tots

Once those Amazon toy clearance deals start (very soon… probably next week), longtime readers know I seize the opportunity to re-stock my gift closet with cheap finds. Some of it gets donated this year, but a lot of it I’ll just put away and pull out to donate next holiday season.

If you want to make sure kids in need get to have a great holiday, but you don’t have the time/energy/money to shop, here’s a fantastic way to help out with as little as $5: Tanga is accepting Toys For Tots donations in $5 increments, and they’ll match customer donations up to $10,000. Toys For Tots isn’t necessarily your thing? You can choose to donate to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, instead. Either way, your money goes twice as far, it’s fast and easy, and ’tis the season.

Thumbs up, Tanga. Thanks for doing this again.

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Send Sandy relief straight to Staten Island

Kudos to alert and pretty Want Not reader Dallas for pointing out that Staten Island assemblyman Matthew Titone has actually set up an Amazon wish list for his district, meaning you can hop online and instead of just donating money, actually purchase needed items. If you have Prime, so much the better (hooray for faster).

The list isn’t particularly sexy—it’s mostly garbage bags, socks and undies, and batteries—but it’s all supplies you’ll know end up with people in desperate need, and you can provide fast, concrete help with just a couple of clicks.

[Edited to add: Here’s a second registry, this one for Brooklyn relief, if you prefer. Or if you’re just so pretty that you want to do both.]

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Another angle on time vs. money

Over the next few weeks I hope to 1) get back into the groove of working normally (before the holidays = working crazy and post-holidays has = not working enough) and 2) get to the backlog of advice requests y’all have sent my way.

Let’s start with the following from lovely reader Caty:

Could you possibly, sometime after the holidays maybe, share with us how you weigh the time you save shopping online versus (maybe/sort of) saving a few bucks in store? For example, according to the Target flier this week, there’s a particular toy I want to give my 3 year-old that is $10 cheaper than the Amazon price. It’s sold out on target.com and while our Target had the toy last week, there’s no guarantee it will be there when I get a chance to stop by/after I call to see they have it and the last one sells before I get there. To me, it’s totally worth spending the 10 extra bucks on Amazon considering a) Free Prime (thank you very much!) b) the time I would spend actually going to the store and c) I am physically and mentally incapable of spending less than $100 in the bricks and mortar Target store. Spending $10 extra is not exactly frugal money-wise. But it’s frugal time-wise. Which is better when you’re already crazy and have neither much time nor money? WWMD?

I think you’re especially pretty today.

I’m happy to share my thoughts on this, though I think Caty is so very pretty she actually already answered her own question. Let’s get to it. (more…)

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On the savings life, and how you can win

So, those of you who were around last year will remember that I went to Save Up in 2010, too, and once again, I am humbled by this event—so many smart folks, all in one place, all sharing their goal of spending smarter and helping others do the same. It’s pretty awesome.

One of the things we’re all being asked to do today is share our savings stories with our readers. Me, I’ve always had my story pretty well outlined on my About page, but I don’t think it’s all that remarkable. (Hey, the sad reality is that half of all marriages end in divorce, and financial difficulties in the aftermath are practically a given.) There are some folks here who’ve dug themselves out of much worse holes than I’ve ever been in, and you can tune in to see some of their presentations later today. There will be a couponing class presentation at 3:15 Eastern, and savings stories start at 4:15 Eastern.

And here’s the best part: If you RSVP through this link before those sessions, you’ll be entered to win an iPad 2! Let’s get someone from Want Not winning that baby, please—I want bragging rights. (And also to come over and play with it after you get it.)

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A quick Savings Pledge update

I just wanted to give y’all an update since first asking you last month to take the Savings Pledge with me. If you recall, I invited you to check out the Savings Pledge app on Facebook and consider committing to saving a certain amount of money each week as part of an overall drive by Savings.com to save America 5 billion dollars. This is about setting a personal goal—both in how much you want to save and whether that’s truly money in the bank or earmarked for a specific purchase—but I tried to sweeten the deal a little by offering to use your commitments to influence how much money I would donate to my locate food bank at the end of the year, above and beyond the money I’ve already committed to save.

At the end of July, I counted 68 Want Not readers who let me know they had pledged. I had committed to set aside one cent for every confirmed pledge per online purchase through the end of the year (so, I placed an order with Amazon on July 30th and put $.68 cents aside when I did it). As of today, I’ve only set aside $3.86 in that fund (that’s donations per online purchase, and it changed as the number of pledges changed). I’ve decided to round it up to a full $1 per online purchase I make from now through the end of the year. This is because I am bad at math I’m generous. Or something. Ahem.

How are you doing on your savings pledge? Have you committed? Will you?

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A quick bit of clarification on the Savings Pledge

Last week I invited you to take the Savings Pledge with me, and to be honest I am kind of stunned by how few of you responded. I mean, I assume you’re here because you like saving money, so it occurs to me that the problem may not be the pledge, but what you might think it obligates you to do.

To recap: I asked that those of you who are fans of Want Not on Facebook consider going there and signing the Savings Pledge as part of Savings.com’s effort to save America a billion dollars. The idea is that you proclaim an amount of money you want to save each week, for whatever purpose you like. In return, I offered that those of you who sign up and leave a comment saying you did on this post would be counted up, and for every reader who commits until the end of July, I’ll be setting aside a penny for my local food bank every time I spend money online for the rest of the year.

If 100 of you sign up, that’s a buck every time I shop online. 1,000 of you, and it’s $10 every time I shop online.

So here’s a little more information about the Savings Pledge, for those of you who are hesitant:
1) It doesn’t do that Facebook Connect thing where you have to authorize it to access your account.
2) In fact, it’s completely anonymous. Signing up gets you a couple of general demographic questions to answer, but no real identifying info is requested or recorded. I can’t even see who’s signed up.
3) There is no contract or obligation here; it’s just a declaration for you to make to help you in your own savings pursuits.

If you are not a Facebook user, I will accept a comment to the effect that you are personally pledging to commit to saving money, even though you can’t “sign up” via Facebook.

C’mon, folks. It’ll be fun; we’ll all be saving together. And the more you (sign up and) save, the more money I’ll be giving to charity. I hope you’ll consider it.

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