Cut These 3 Things to Actually Save Money

At The Motley Fool, Morgan Housel has an excellent article on how to actually save money. The bottom line: stop fooling around trying to drink less coffee or make your own lunches and focus on three things:

  1. Your house or apartment. Keep it modest.
  2. Your car. Get a car, not a truck or SUV, and make it an inexpensive, fuel-efficient one. Bonus points for buying used.
  3. Education. Go to an in-state school. Better yet, go to a community college for two years, then transfer to an in-state school for two years.

Pinching pennies is all well and good if you like pinching pennies. But savvy consumers don’t pinch pennies; they pinch dollars by the thousands. [The Motley Fool, h/t @DanielGershberg]

San Francisco County Sued for Operating a Debtors Prison

There’s a new class action, this one against San Francisco County. Other debtors prison lawsuits include Austin, TX , Benton County, WA, DeKalb County, GABiloxi, MS, and New Orleans. [Daily Kos]

FTC Launches “Operation Collection Protection”


The FTC is going after debt collectors in a big way:

The cases announced today bring to 115 the total number of actions taken so far this year by the more than 70 law enforcement partners in the Operation Collection Protection initiative.

The FTC is mainly targeting debt collectors trying to collect debts the consumers don’t actually owe.

Debt collectors targeted by the FTC and various state law-enforcement agencies include BAM Financial, Delaware Solutions, K.I.P., and National Check Registry.

Austin, Texas, Sued for Operating a Debtors Prison

The class-action complaint (pdf) alleges the city of Austin routinely jails people too poor to pay traffic tickets and other fines. This is only the most recent in a series of similar lawsuits. Earlier this month, the ACLU sued a Georgia county. Other lawsuits include Benton County, WA, Biloxi, MS, and New Orleans. [BuzzFeed]

FCC Makes it Easier to Block Robocalls

Last week the FCC started releasing a regularly-updated spreadsheet of robocall complaints, including the number displayed on Caller ID during the call. This should make it pretty easy for companies to create apps that block calls from those numbers. It could be like a crowdsourced spam blocker for phone calls and text messages. [the Verge]

Alabama Payday Loans Average $14 Million per Week

That database was created to ensure payday lenders can comply with a law that limits a person to $500 in payday loans at any one time. The payday loan industry sued to stop the creation of the database, of course. [Montgomery Advertiser/AP]

“Wasted” on Facebook? Your Credit Score Might Suffer.

Credit scores are, in theory, a measure of how likely it is that you will pay your debts instead of defaulting or declaring bankruptcy. They are extremely flawed, but it’s all the banks have got. In a search for ways to refine credit scores, FICO (the company that developed the most popular credit score) is considering using social media in its equation.

Fico [is] increasingly looking at data on a spectrum: with credit card repayment history at one end – the most reliable guide to creditworthiness – and at the other, information volunteered on social media platforms such as Facebook.

In short, posting dumb things to your public social media profiles may soon make your life more expensive.

Featured image by sanberdoo / CC BY 2.0.

Student Loan Servicers Make a Bad System Worse

This article is mostly about why student-loan servicers are terrible, but the reality is they just make a bad system worse. [New York Times]

Not Having a Bank Account is Expensive

“‘How the Other Half Banks,’ by Mehrsa Baradaran” [New York Times]

ACLU Sues Washington County for Operating a Debtors Prison

In many states, if you are convicted of a crime you will be charged a fee for the cost of prosecution (and sometimes defense). Then, after you have served your time, you can be tossed in jail again if you don’t pay those fees.

Charging criminal defendants for the cost of prosecuting them makes a certain kind of sense. The problem is that many criminal defendants can’t afford those fees, so the end result is debtors prison. It is unjust, and the ACLU is looking to make an example of Benton County, Washington. It’s not a random choice. “[L]ast year, an NPR analysis of jail records found that about 1 out of every 4 people in jail for a misdemeanor offense was there because he failed to pay court fines and fees.”

That’s insane. A quarter of the people in jail for a misdemeanor in Benton County are there because they didn’t pay court fees! Sounds like the ACLU lawsuit was long overdue, if anything.