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December 6, 2007

Money Q&A

By Vanessa Cohen

If you have a health question, submit it to Vanessa at

Crazy bank fees

I always feel like I’m getting ripped off by my bank because the fees they charge are maddening. How can I save on bank fees without losing the “privilege” of using ATMs and writing checks?

Tina Marie

It’s so true that bank fees are getting out of hand, but with a little vigilance, it is possible to save about $100 a year.

First, try to find yourself a free checking account that doesn’t require a minimum balance. Unfortunately, however, ATM fees are something you cannot really change, but do ask your bank for a comprehensive list of fees that are charged to your account on a monthly basis.

What you can do is avoid using ATMs that don’t belong to your branch because not only does your bank charge you a fee for using it, but the other bank also charges you a fee.

Home repair costs

A wall in my home has cracked significantly and I plan to have it fixed. The problem is that one of the contractors I spoke with told me he needs to get paid before they start working. This sounds shady to me. What do you think?


From home repair contractors to mechanics, you always have to keep your ears and eyes open to make sure you don’t get ripped off. You can start by doing your homework.
Websites like lists approximate costs of certain home repairs. As well, if you speak with a few contractors, you may discover that their price ranges aren’t too far off from each other.

But the fact that this man is telling you to pay him before he even does anything should set off alarm bells in your head. Never sign any contract that stipulates that you must pay up before the work is completed to your satisfaction.

Need cash fast

I need some money fast, do you know of any ways I can get my hands on a couple of thousand dollars without having to pay back ridiculous interest?


Assuming you have good credit, you could opt to get a personal loan from a bank, considering their rates are usually lower than other loan providers. But don’t just go to any bank; you need to do your homework as rates can vary greatly from one bank to another.

If your credit is not very good, you can always apply for a credit card and get a cash advance. Although the interest is somewhat “ridiculous,” if you need the money desperately, this is another option.

No matter what route you decide to take, you must be disciplined when borrowing money, otherwise your debt can escalate to a point where you will drown in it. I strongly suggest that you plan a budget and stick to it.

Cost of divorce

I just separated from my husband and I need to know what to do to figure out how to get things going on my own via living expenses and such.

The Big D

To begin, I’m sorry to hear that things didn’t work out, but it’s essential that you are aware of what you need to do to ensure your financial safety.

To start, figure out exactly what your assets and liabilities are and get statements to back everything up.

Then sit down and write up a budget. Think about all the costs of living when you were together and lower it only by 25% (it’s better to overestimate costs). If you bought a home together, you need to figure out who will stay there and who will be leaving, or if the two of you will sell it and go your separate ways.

If you have a host of small debts, you might want to consolidate them and pay off one debt rather than a host of small ones.

Good luck.

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