Dear Mary: Every year, my mom starts a Christmas club account and makes monthly contributions. She swears by it and says that it makes her holiday shopping much easier because she doesn’t have to charge anything on her credit card account. I think it would be wiser for her to put that money in a savings account, let it earn some interest and then use some of it to buy the gifts. Who’s right? — Sandy

Dear Sandy: You’re both right. I love the concept of a Christmas club account because of that automatic feature. Face it; we just don’t miss money we don’t see! Banks and credit unions that still offer Christmas club accounts have no minimums or fees. And while they do pay interest, it’s not much. She could easily create her own Christmas account, as you suggest. Suggest that she research interest rates for online banks. Look for banks where she can boost her interest rate, not incur fees and easily link a savings account with her current checking account.

Dear Mary: It’s midwinter, and my husband wants to sign us both up for gym memberships, even though I’m sure this is just a phase that will fade. What should we consider when joining a gym? I’m worried about high fees and an unbreakable contract. — Robin

Dear Robin: Good for both of you! Before you sign anything, check to see if your employer or health plan offers a discounted membership for your local gym. Most clubs offer one or more free workouts or a limited trial membership.

Be sure to visit the gym at different times during your trial period to try the equipment and to see when it’s crowded. Compare prices and contracts with other facilities. Ask what your options are for ending the contract early if you aren’t happy. Do they offer month-to-month memberships? Do your homework, choose a gym and then stick with it faithfully.

Dear Mary: I did a very stupid thing. I got a robocall from the bank that issued one of my two credit cards. It said I was late on the payment (I was. Don’t ask — earlier stupid thing), and asked if I would authorize a payment from my checking account.

I blithely rattled off my checking account number, the bank routing number, a check number and the amount I authorized.

After I hung up, it hit me: An anonymous robot had called me, and I shared all the information someone would need to clean out my checking account. Before I closed my account or stopped payment on any and all drafts, I called the bank. Fortunately, the call was legitimate, and the payment was being processed. But I will NEVER be that careless again! Please warn your readers. — Bonnie

Dear Bonnie: You just did. Thanks!

Dear Mary: My husband and I want to thank you. We got your “Debt-Proof Living” book many years ago and worked to get out of debt and fund our contingency fund. The only debt we have is our home. We only have one credit card, and we pay the balance in full. Our contingency fund is fully funded and even has extra money in it.

We recently learned that my husband will be laid off soon. He has begun looking for another job, and we are cutting everything we can. I work full time in a local government job. You helped us prepare for this, and we just wanted to say thanks. — Doris and Elliot

Dear Doris and Elliot: I am sorry to hear you will be facing unemployment soon but thrilled to know that you are well prepared. I truly believe that God uses financial challenges to bring clarity to our minds on what really matters in life and what doesn’t. Thanks for your kind words, and please stay in touch so we can encourage one another in the coming days.

Would you like more information? Go to EverydayCheapskate.com for links and resources for recommended products and services in this column. Mary invites questions, comments and tips at EverydayCheapskate.com, “Ask Mary.” This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a lifestyle blog, and the author of the book “Debt-Proof Living.”

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