Sunday, November 24, 2013

Financial Tip: Have an Overdraft Fee Waived (No Phone Call or Trip to the Bank Required)

Most of us have had it happen to us at some point: You check your bank account one day, expecting to see a certain amount of money safely stashed away, but somehow you're missing an extra $35 from said account.

"How can this be?  Wait a minute... a certain subscription fee was charged unexpectedly and I got overdrafted by $2.00!  Damn it, now I'm out $35 more!"

Broke due to overdraft fees?  No problem!
This happened to me just recently, and I almost just took the loss, chalking it up to a failure on my part to keep my finances in order.

However, with the multitude of articles on the web devoted to getting fees waived, I decided to test my luck and see how much truth there is in having the bank forgive me for a careless mistake.  Surprisingly, I had no trouble at all getting that pesky overdraft fee refunded.  And the best part is, I didn't even have to leave my keyboard.

Most banks these days have an online interface for customers to check up on their bank accounts over the internet.  Some banks even have a messaging center, where you can ask questions or get help from a specialist, much like any other tech support service on the web.  All I did was log into my bank account online and send a message to the bank's "Help & Support" center.  The message was something along the lines of:

"Hello, I was hoping to have an overdraft fee waived if at all possible.  I made a mistake and I would greatly appreciate a bit of leniency regarding this problem.  Thanks so much for your time and service!"

That's it.  Short and sweet, with a bit of humility and politeness.

Sure enough, not even 24 hours later, I received a reply in my messaging center explaining that my bank would be happy to refund my fee, and offered me some tips on how to keep from getting overdrafted again.  After viewing my account balance, I noticed that the bank had re-deposited that $35 they took as an overdraft fee.  I really needed that extra cash (who doesn't?), and I was amazed at how easy and simple it was to have this fee refunded to me.

Most financial gurus will advise you to make a phone call to your bank's customer service line, sitting through seemingly endless automated messages, until you finally reach a human on the other end.  They will tell you to apologize profusely to your customer service representative, in hopes that they might have mercy on your soul (and your wallet).

Some of those gurus will even tell you to make a trip down to your local branch to talk to a manager face-to-face, supposedly making it harder for them to refuse you a refund on your fee... due to human interaction and compassion and all that good stuff.

Online specialists are happy to help waive fees
I'm here to tell you that you don't have to jump through those hoops.  Just send a polite message to your bank's help and support center online, explaining the situation.  For an introvert like me, this is a much more convenient solution to the problem... and just as effective.  While all of the methods will probably work, the one that I chose is probably the fastest and easiest way to have your money refunded.  If it doesn't work for some reason, try the other two as well.  Worst thing they can do is say "no" and the best thing they can do is give you your hard-earned money back.

So skip the lines and put down the phone.  Just send a message to your bank and get your overdraft fee waived... no muss, no fuss!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The DD's Comprehensive Guide to Saving Money by Growing Your Own Food

It's a cold Saturday morning in October as I am writing this, and strangely I am writing an article on growing vegetables to save money.  Isn't gardening more of a spring/summer thing?  While that may be true, I love being prepared, and vegetable gardening is no exception.  Even when I plant the first seeds in the ground when the weather gets warmer, I am envisioning what I am going to plant for next year's gardening season.  I think most experienced gardeners are like that, too.

I'll show you how to grow corn on the cheap!
That said, this article will be a continually updated guide on how to save money on your food budget by growing your own vegetables.  This is my very first rough draft of this guide.

It seems almost silly when I'm "planning to plan," but it helps me organize my thoughts.  Since I have a pretty selective topic for this guide, I am going to assume that most people reading this have at least some experience gardening, particularly with growing vegetables.  To help keep the content of this guide somewhat original, I am going to forgo the gardening basics (e.g. locations to plant, amount of light, watering, which plants prefer cold/warm temperatures, ect.).

If you don't have any experience with growing plants, I would recommend reading some beginner gardening articles and trying to grow some plants for one season first.  GardenWeb is a great site for beginners to get their feet wet.  Gardening is a hobby where experience can be the best teacher, and there are literally hundreds of people with years of experience that participate on the GardenWeb forums. 

The Guide Outline (so far):

  • Planning what to grow
  • Where to get seeds for the best price
  • Soil mix
  • Planting
  • Maintaining plants
  • Composting and Fertilizing
  • Pests
  • Diseases
  • Harvesting
  • Seed saving

 I want this guide to be one of the most comprehensive resources on growing vegetables as frugally as possible.  However, although this isn't my first attempt at growing vegetables (or any plant, for that matter), it WILL be the first time I try to maximize production while minimizing cost.  That means the first few versions of this guide will be more of an experiment than a definitive source of knowledge.  When I make new discoveries or changes to my overall plan, so too, will updates be made to the guide to reflect what I've learned.  Over the course of time, I hope to make this guide more and more accurate--in prices and in results--but keep in mind that the first version of any product, including my guide, will not be perfect.

I encourage any gardeners reading this to follow, replicate and/or improve upon my suggestions, and I welcome any advice on how to make vegetable plants more productive, or how to grow them cheaper than I do (including costs related to setting up an initial bed, soil and water).

Organic leaf lettuce, straight out of my 2013 garden

Everything aside, I hope you enjoy this guide and reap a bountiful harvest of food on the cheap.

Click here to read Part I: Compost

ADDENDUM 03/15/2014

I want this blog to be a reliable source of accurate information, so in the interest of being as forthcoming as possible, in my own garden, I apply many of the frugal ideas found in the guide, but I don't necessarily follow it to a "T".  I don't feel as though this invalidates any of the advice in my guide, however.  If you are a first-time gardener, I recommend you start small (regularly repeated in my guide, too).  And all the frugal tips and advice in my guide are perfect for a small garden.

For example, I recommend using hand tools, like a simple shovel, from the Dollar Tree store for digging in the garden.  I have a Dollar Tree shovel and I use it regularly, but I also have a very large shovel for larger areas that need to be tilled.

If you end up enjoying gardening, and you want to expand your gardening area, you may want to invest in a wider variety of tools, which costs more money.  However, most items like this are a one time cost and will return your investment within a few growing seasons.  You can also still use other frugal tips to keep most of your growing costs down.

Also, not everyone will be able to utilize every part of my guide in their own garden.  Some people may not even have a garden.  Still, like I stated above, you can take whatever parts of the guide that are applicable to you and save on food costs by growing your own food, no matter how small.

This guide is not intended to be perfect, but it is a culmination of my knowledge on growing as much food for as little money as possible.  Thank you for taking the time to read the guide, and I hope it helps you, at least in some way.