Banking, Taxes & Charitable Giving Tips

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This Banking, Taxes & Charitable Giving Tips Page contains a growing list of money-saving tips from our readers to help you deal with bank fees, tax preparation, and charitable giving!

25x the Interest – FDIC Online Bank

If you need a bank that pays a high-interest rate and has very low fees consider CIT Bank. They are an FDIC insured bank that pays 25x the national average in interest (1.55% APY).

You can open an account with a minimum balance of $100. Get details from CIT Bank. 

We know that it’s a lot of work to change banks, but at the very least, consider using CIT Bank for your emergency fund.  Steve Economides – Scottsdale, AZ 

Budgeting at the Bank

I live in Oklahoma, and bank with BancFirst. They have added a program to their online banking called Financeworks (by Quicken). It links automatically to your account, and you can have it incorporate any of your other online accounts, other bank accounts, credit cards, loans, savings, etc. You can set up a budget, pay bills online, set up reminders of recurring payments and deposits, track spending, even provide tracking for business-related expenses. It even categorizes your purchases for you, but you can change them if it puts them in the wrong place. You can also ‘split’ purchases into separate categories. Great program. It can really help you get a realistic view of your finances in one location.   Katie R. – Oklahoma, USA

Editors’ Note: Check out your bank to see what services are offered and how they may help you in keeping your finances in order. Just be aware that all budgeting programs operate differently. In the past, we’ve used Quicken and it doesn’t allow for you to accumulate money in accounts like clothing or car repair in anticipation of non-recurring expenses. If you’re interested in the budgeting program we’ve used to live debt-free click here.

Check It Out – Banking On It!

One of the things I haven’t seen mentioned in the Tips section of your website is ordering checks from one of the many companies that advertise in the Sunday paper. I order the largest amount which often includes a free box of checks. When I do run out, I order from another company, as the best prices are for new customers. This is much less expensive than getting checks from the bank.   Mary Ellen Hodgman – Seattle, WA

Free Checks – Just Ask

Recently I discovered that our bank was offering free checks.  I overheard the promotion being explained to a new customer. They didn’t send out a letter to existing customers. I asked and received the same promotion. So, always ask if there are any bonuses that have been added as a thank-you feature.   Christy T. – Ludlow, KY 

Having a Plan for Charitable Giving

We have a manila folder that we save charity appeals in. At various time during the year and in December, we sort them out and decide which ones to support. We review how much money we’ve set aside and divide it up as we are able.   Louise Hahn – Frederick, MD

Bank Savings

Many banks offer free internet banking and free bill pay.  I pay everything online now. It saves fees for ordering checks and postage. You can also indicate what date you would like to have your bills paid, and the bank guarantees it. This can be set up ahead of time. Just go on vacation, you simply do not have to worry about payments getting where they have to be on a specific date. You can also set up email reminders if you don’t want automatic payments made. It’s a great service.    Renee J. – Hopewell, VA

We’ve used free Bill-Pay for years to pay our regular bills and our charitable giving. Each month we save at least one hour of time and about $5 in postage.

Banking For Free

Nationally chartered banks have to give you free checking, that is part of their charter. You can call the bank or just look for a bank with the word “national” in it, and you have free checking. Great for new Girl/Boy Scout troops or eBay accounts where your initial balance may be small!   Anita – Clifton Park, NY

Editors’ Note: The Office of The Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) oversees the operations of National banks (including banks with National, N.A. or National Association in their names). These banks are F.D.I.C insured but are regulated by the OCC. Visit for more information.

Free Income Tax Preparation

AARP Tax-Aide LogoPeople of any age can receive free help preparing their taxes through the AARP Tax-Aide Service. I have been a volunteer for a number of years and find it very rewarding. Here are some details. It is a free service supported by over 30,000 volunteers across the country. It is available to people of all ages with middle and low income, with special attention to those age 60 and older. We prepare tax returns and answer tax questions. To find one of the 10,000 locations near your home, call 1-888-227-7669. AARP Tax-Aide sites are located in places convenient for taxpayers to get to, such as senior centers, libraries, and malls. We can also visit taxpayers in their homes if they are physically unable to visit a site. This program is available from February 1-April 15 each year. For more information visit the website –   A.J. Economides – Hinsdale, IL

RELATED ARTICLE: Cash Balance Plans: Pros & Cons – A fast track to early retirement

Tax Refunds as Your Windfall Plan

Sixty-four percent of Americans have or will receive a tax refund this year. Unfortunately, most of the money will be used to catch up on bills. We encourage everyone to develop a plan for windfalls — unexpected money. Having a plan before the money comes in multiplies the effectiveness of the windfall and minimizes the emotional attachment to it. This is one of the techniques we used to pay off our houses.

Charitable Giving for Babies

My favorite place for charitable giving is Newborns in Need in Houston, Missouri. But I don’t just give money. Every few months, I put my fabric scraps and sewing skills to use to make baby bonnets and quilted diaper bags. They are given to families in need. It helps them and gives me a warm feeling. Jennifer D. – Bayard, MO

De-Clutter and De-Tax

A pile of household junk including an ironing board and lamp.

When you donate to the Salvation Army or Goodwill they will give you a blank receipt. Before you leave the donation site, fill in the items, their condition and have the Collection Agent sign the receipt. Then file the receipt away with your tax info. The IRS has a standard deduction amount for many things and the better the condition the greater the deduction. This is great right before holidays, birthdays and between Christmas and New Year because it helps you de-clutter and makes room for new things.  Alana S. – Bellvue, WA 

One Philosophy of Charitable Giving

I make most of my charitable contributions to my church. But on occasion when I hear of a need to fund moral issues that I believe in – the sanctity of life, marriage amendment etc., I give what I can. I stay away from medical causes (unless I know someone with that particular disease) and political campaigns. Donna Brooks – Chambersburg, PA

Should Tithing Always Be 20%?

Question: Do you have any section about your beliefs about tithing? Our family is 8 in number.  We have 5 boys and one girl ages 5 to 13.  Even though both of us work, we make less than $32,000 a year and have been having a very rough time.  We have been putting our faith in God, but it has just been very difficult. Any ideas on what we can do?

Answer: We think God is more concerned with your heart than the amount of money you give. Just make sure that you have a real working budget in place, that you reconcile it twice a month, and that it covers your NEEDS, not necessarily your wants.

If you aren’t debt-free, work to get there. If you’re not sure how to do that, check out our books from the library.  Especially note the debt chapter in America’s Cheapest Family Gets You Right on the Money. Read them over and over and do what you can.  Pick one thing each week to tackle with your finances.

Could changing your career field and becoming an apprentice to someone increase your income? Plumbers, electricians, and air conditioning repairmen make good livings. Education and a different job will very likely increase your income.

Government Assistance Perhaps?

Given your income level and household size, you may qualify for food stamps and low-income utility discounts. Research these and use them until your income level increases. Have you checked out local food banks in your area? These can really help to stretch your food money.

Remember the widow and the mite? Don’t worry about giving ten percent if you are doing all of the above and the money is not there. Give something, even if it is five dollars when you can. You can also give by being a helper in your kids’ Sunday school classes.

We know this is going to sound crazy, but you may be better off if your wife is a homemaker full time. The money could be stretched and managed very carefully if she had the time and was willing. A second income is not always the best solution. Enough said.

Remember God is a God of grace.  He loves you and has not forgotten you! As you are diligent to manage your finances, He WILL bless you! Let us know when the blessings come!

Charitable Giving in Marriage

My husband and I decided on three charities to support as a family-he chose one, I chose one, and we chose one together.It wasn’t difficult; we both like all three charities! He supports an animal charity. I support an organization that I volunteer with. The third was a child/baby charity. Any other charitable giving has to come from our own personal funds – we each get a monthly “allowance.”

Recently, I gave additional money to “my” charity and on occasion others – for example, I love Girl Scout cookies and often send a small amount to my alma mater. If any other group calls or comes to the door, I just say, “We’ve already chosen where to donate our money this year.” I don’t feel guilty because we made thoughtful choices about issues that are of importance to us. AnnMarie Johnson – Oshkosh WI

Giving Services or Stuff Instead of Money

Your suggestions to consider non-financial gifts is one that more charitable minded givers ought to consider. For example, I welcome gifts of used laptop computers and Christian books. I pass these along to ministries in the developing world as I travel. Friends can donate their frequent flyer miles to help toward my ministry travel needs. Professionals of all kinds donate their services as a means of “supporting” me.

Here are some examples I’ve experienced or heard of: medical services; dental services; counseling services; tutoring for the children; grooming (hair cutting and styling for men and women; nails for women; etc.); tax preparation; financial counseling/planning; attorney services. Other businessmen have provided: materials at their cost or accommodations (i.e. hotel rooms or apartments). I’m so thankful for these creative ways that people can give and receive non-financial gifts. Walt Edman – Somewhere in Indonesia, Asia or Singapore

 Someone Always Asking for Hand Outs

I could use some advice. My family lives a pretty frugal lifestyle out of necessity. We budget, shop thrift stores and always plan ahead. We carefully count the cost of extracurricular activities and various house projects, denying other things we would like to do, and budgeting carefully for these “extras.”

Here’s where I need help, I have a friend who ALWAYS has her hand out looking for something for free—it frustrates me. From what I can tell she and her husband don’t budget their money at all or make wise financial decisions.

She is a member of several groups that I am in, so I have lots of contact with her. Here’s the catch, she is a SAHM, her husband has a decent job in the financial services industry, and they also do some foster care (don’t know if it’s for the money or to help the children).

Asking for Help but Not Handling Money Well

Their kids are enrolled in an expensive private school and some pricy extra curricular activities (dance and cheer). Consequently she’s constantly making announcements about fundraisers or asking for tuition assistance through the groups we both participate in.

I believe in living by faith, but not stupidity or indulgently. I am not easily offended, but I’m getting more and more annoyed as I’ve been checking some of the Facebook pages where we both participate, constantly seeing her requests.

Recently she asked if people would donate plants for her yard and fabric for curtains. It just feels like her hand is out for everything. I know I’m venting, but it is draining. These were groups that once encouraged me.

I don’t want to hurt her feelings, as she is very easily offended. Have you dealt with anything like this?

Money Smart Family Answer

You are right to be concerned and frustrated, this “friend” is using her contacts very selfishly, clearly asking for handouts for things beyond “needs.” Could you block this person from your social media circles? Perhaps discuss with the various moderators about making a policy about financial and physical needs requests being limited to one or two per month.

Beyond that, if you are approached for money or a donation, what we usually do is tell the truth, saying that our charitable giving budget is already designated for several ministries that we support. If she asks for personal financial help, give her the names of food banks in your area, as well as county medical clinics, organizations such as Salvation Army, and St. Vincent DePaul, who can help pay some utility bills, and the location of thrift stores in the area.

Money Problems Can Mean That Someone is Hurting

But most importantly we’ve got to realize that the world is full of hurting people who don’t have a clue about managing their finances. So we shouldn’t be surprised or upset when we see this type of dysfunction.

You are doing well managing what you have, stay focused there. This “friend” is abusing what these groups are for. Pray for her, she is obviously very troubled and may need counseling as well. Our experience tells us that people in the finance industry are some of the worst offenders when it comes to managing their own finances!

Home school pioneer Mary Pride wrote this about 10 years ago,

“If someone asks you to do something for them or give them something for free, and you politely explain you don’t want to do it, if they act apologetic, it was just an honest mistake.

But if they act “hurt” or resentful, and especially if they begin to question your morality and piety, and most especially if they threaten to tell other people about your low morality and piety (for not doing their bidding), they are bullying you. I don’t care how sweet and “Christian” they try to sound, or how many Bible verses they quote – it’s their actions that tell the tale.”

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