Discover an online banking option, where to find surcharge-free ATMs and free Wi-Fi service, info about a pet-sitting service, and much more.
By Janet Groene, F47166
August 2008 FMC magazine
In almost every facet of life, full-timing is much different from living in a stay-put house. Your “home” address may be on the other side of the continent. Your banker is three states away. Your doctors change with each checkup. Here are some suggestions that can simplify life on the go.
- Looking for cheaper, easier banking? ING Direct (www.ingdirect.com) is an online-only bank that offers paperless checking, high interest rates, electronic transfers, and automatic deposit, all at no cost.
- Add Independence, Missouri, to your list of cities that have a full-service campground within walking distance of many attractions. From the intersection of Interstate 70 and Interstate 35, it’s just a 20-minute drive into the Campus RV Park and points of interest in the Independence and Kansas City areas. Campus RV Park is open year-round. For more information, call (888) 254-3750 or visit www.campusrv.com . For ideas on area sight-seeing, contact Independence Tourism at (800) 748-7323 or www.visitindependence.com.
- Find a directory of free Wi-Fi hot spots at www.wififreespot.com. The site is supported by advertising and is free to users.
- PC World magazine recommends a spam filter called Spamato, which is free from www.spamato.net.
- If you’re stuck with a computer problem but still can get online, find free help at www.protonic.com. It’s monitored by an online community of tech support volunteers who will try to answer your question or help you to solve your problem.
- Experts recommend monitoring your credit report so you’ll know at once if your identity has been stolen. However, some of the highly advertised “free” credit reports aren’t necessarily free, accurate, or secure. Instead go to www.annualcreditreport.com, which is supported by Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian, the three major credit reporting companies.
- Got a gripe? By the time you find out the aerosol can you picked up two days ago won’t spray or the canned apples are more juice than apples, you may be miles away from where you bought the product. Recently I found myself with two faulty products, reported my complaints to toll-free numbers on the labels, and received coupons by mail that allowed me to replace the products free.
Companies want to know when they are underperforming. Before writing a letter, look at the label and if a toll-free telephone number is provided, try the free call. Nobody asked me to return the product but often they will want to know any numbers, codes, or dates you can find on cans or labels.
- Stuck for an inexpensive gift? If it’s the thought that counts, find used books at www.amazon.com at pittance prices. Sellers can ship directly to recipients, but be sure to write the honoree explaining what he or she will receive and why. These books don’t pretend to be new and that’s part of their endearing, personal appeal.
You might buy a book on 1959 cars or a 1959 cookbook for a couple celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary in 2009. Or perhaps you could purchase a 1965 guidebook to Hawaii for a couple who honeymooned there that year, or a book autographed by John Glenn for a youngster who dreams of becoming an astronaut. I found an autographed copy of Wally Schirra’s book, Schirra’s Space, for only $19.95.
Instead of expensive first editions, pick a genre that reflects the person’s passions. Categories are endless: quilting books, hymnals, presidential biographies, vegetarian cookbooks, cats, poodles, the Elizabethan era, woodworking, antique candlesticks, and many more.
- Flowers by wire are a quick, easy gift solution when you’re on the go. To receive a senior discount, go to www.1800flowers.com and enter the word “senior” in the promotion code window at checkout. By phone, call (800) 356-9377 and mention the same promotion code.
- Senior dining discounts can still be found, but you have to ask for them. At Boston Market locations, discounts kick in at age 65; at El Pollo Loco, you’ll get 10 percent off if you’re 55 or older. Discounts at Waffle House apply to folks at age 65 but are offered only on certain days.
- With fuel costs soaring, discounts are more important than ever before, but so is vigilance. Many fuel stations post a come-on price without stating that it’s for cash only. Make sure you ask first. Credit cards that offer cash-back rewards on fuel purchases may not be a bargain either, unless you buy at stations with a fuel station name. If the station is called Love’s Country Store or Joe’s Fast Food, the rebate probably will be missed.
- What do you do with pets if you need a sitter for a day, or must fly somewhere for a longer period during a family emergency? Look into Fetch! Pet Care, www.fetchpetcare.com, (866) 338-2463. Unlike kennels, these sitters are individuals in private homes. They’re trained, insured, and have had a background check. At the Web site, you can type in the zip code of your location and learn whether any Fetch sitters live nearby.
- If you pay a fee to use ATMs on some occasions or all the time, there’s a better way. Check into surcharge-free networks such as Allpoint (www.allpointnetwork.com), Alliance One (www.allianceone.coop), or Co-Op Financial (www.co-opnetwork.org). For full-timers, the challenge is to find the widest possible network in the states you travel, plus a network in easy-access locations such as fuel stations, Target stores, or Costco locations. Some Internet banks reimburse ATM fees up to a limit of, say, $7 monthly. Some online-only banks reimburse all ATM fees in the United States and other nations, too.
- Is phishing clogging your e-mail inbox? Complain directly to the Federal Trade Commission by forwarding the offending e-mail to [email protected].
- If you’re already miles away when you realize you were hoodwinked by a purchase made in another town, take your complaint to the Better Business Bureau by going to www.bbbonline.org. At this site you can obtain the address of the local Better Business Bureau if you want to return there, or file the complaint directly via the Web site.
- You may not receive utility bills at campgrounds, but nevertheless you’re paying for power and water. So is the environment. The American Council for Energy-Efficient Economy offers a free checklist of sensible ideas you can put into practice now. Only some of the tips apply to motorhome life, but the list makes interesting reading and may include some ideas you never thought about before. Go to www.aceee.org/consumerguide/checklist.htm.
- Here’s why it pays to go over monthly statements carefully to make sure new charges aren’t being sneaked in. One phone company charges 20 cents per minute for call forwarding. One bank adds a $5.95 monthly fee to your “free” checking account if you download to your own software, such as Quicken, rather than use the software they provide. One Internet service provider charges an extra $1 per month for a paper bill or $2 monthly if you get a paper bill and pay by check.
- That gift card you received on your last birthday may be losing as much as $2.50 per month in value if it has been more than a year since the donor purchased it.
Full-Timer’s Forum Questions
Please send an e-mail to [email protected] to share your answers to the questions below and let us know whether you want your name used. If you do, please also include your FMCA family membership number. Put FMC in the subject line.
1. Do you have a piggy bank or a special savings account designated for one particular thing? It could be as simple as dinner and a movie, a Christmas club, or a trip to Spain. Tell us about it.
2. Since you started full-timing, have you learned a new skill that pays big dividends, such as cutting each other’s hair or changing your own oil and filters? Have you taken a course in mechanics, upholstery, or air conditioning? Tell us what you learned and how you went about it, and also and how much you have saved.