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Avoiding ATM fees abroad

With the economy in its current dismal state, travel - especially international travel - has decreased. But if you're lucky enough to get away to another country for work or pleasure, you're probably wondering about the easiest and cheapest way to get access to foreign currency and avoid fees.

My advice is to see if your bank is part of a Global ATM Alliance. I use Bank of America, for example. When I was in Hong Kong, I withdrew money from China Construction Bank for no ATM fee. When I was in Montreal, I withdrew money from Scotiabank. If you're in the U.K. and have a Bank of America ATM card or Check Card, use a Barclays bank. In France, it's BNP Paribas. And so on.

Before you arrive, find the branch nearest your hotel or the airport and you'll be flush with cash without having to fork over any of those annoying ATM fees. Anyone else have advice on the best ways to exchange foreign currency while traveling?

--Joseph Popiolkowski

Taking the "cost" out of Halloween costumes

Earlier this week I shot a video (embedded below) in which I talked to parents and the cutest kids imaginable about what they wanted to be for Halloween. We also wanted to know where parents planned on getting the costumes and their advice for saving money on them. All the families were very nice and kind by allowing me to put them on camera.

I got predictable answers - make the costumes at home, reuse a dance costume, hand costumes down from older to younger children. But it's a good reminder that instead of shelling out money for a cheaply made costume, you can save money and have fun making it yourself. I remember one year my parents wrapped me up in tin foil and called me a spaceman. I had a blast (off). Ha.

One piece of advice I didn't hear was to shop for costumes immediately after Halloween when everything is on deep discount. Share your Halloween costume memories here.

-Joseph Popiolkowski

Ditching the Home Phone?

It seems more and more people are ditching their land line and relying on a cell phone instead.

My sister swears it's a terrible idea, and feels a tremendous amount of security by hanging onto her home phone. I use just a cell phone.

Is this a smart way to cut back on costs? Are there benefits to having both lines of communication? Or, are duplicate phone lines just a waste of your hard-earned cash?

--- Samantha Maziarz Christmann

Proactive at the Pump

Although gasoline prices have (finally!) begun their slow descent, most drivers are continuing their gas-saving ways.

Many, like the hypermilers, have made a game out of trying to get the best gas mileage possible.

Seeing the way your gas gauge is affected by changing a few driving habits can be addictive - turning the drive to work into a fun daily challenge. (Read these stories in the new MoneySmart section.)

Have you tried any of these techniques? Do you have your own tips to share? How far can you go between fill-ups?

--- Samantha Maziarz Christmann

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