Hard Times Handbook - Page 6

Our guide to living better, for less, in the recession

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Rent control or no, landlords can only collect rent on foreclosed properties until the deed of trust has gone to the bank. Determine who has control of your property to avoid paying rent twice. This information is available at the City Assessor's Office at 415-554-7915. Send letters to the bank and to your landlord saying you have the money but don't know who to pay. Until you can determine who has control, don't pay rent.

For more resources, check out SF Tenants' Union Web site at www.sftu.org.

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Avoid check-cashing fees

By Caitlin Donohue

ATM charges, big old monthly fees, frustrating commercials — oh Lord, save us from these banks! But you can't live without 'em either — the average unbanked American spends 5 percent of his or her income at the check-casher. In San Francisco, we drop a total of $40 million a year accessing our own money — not to mention how much goes toward money order fees.

Enter the Bank of San Francisco, the mayor's brainchild that allows city residents to open a checking or savings account for $5 a month or less. The bank is open to those without Social Security numbers as well as residents who have a poor record with accounts in the past. Go to www.bankonsf.org for more information on the program, or keep an eye peeled for one of the 140 participating city banks that have a "Bank on SF" sign in their window. There's no reason to pay check-cashing fees any more.

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Food so cheap, it's free

Let's level here: how broke are you? Two-for-one beers and discounted oysters are all well and good for the casually unmonied, but there are times when one needs a real deal on nutrition — like, food that really is free. If we've got your number, here's the Web site for you: www.freeprintshop.org, whose printable calendar lists 20 organizations that dish up meals open to all comers, including Food Not Bombs' vegetarian dinners, which are served four times a week in U.N. Plaza. Free Print Shop gets the posthumous thumbs-up from Abraham Maslow: the up-to-date info on shelters, mental health, and neighborhood resources in the city has the bottom tier of your hierarchy of needs covered. Except for maybe the sex part; that might be another Web site. (Caitlin Donohue)

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Inner peace, by donation

It is said that whenever Buddha would speak to an audience that had not yet recognized him as their spiritual teacher, he would first expound on the concept of dana, or giving. If the listeners were unable to grasp this basic principle, he knew they weren't ready for the Four Noble Truths.

Would that all yoga studios were this enlightened. I mean, $20 for 90 minutes of inner peace?

We are lucky that with a little bit of looking one can find financially accessible ayurveda even here, in the city of yoga-yuppies. Case in point: Yoga to the People, whose beautiful new Mission District studio (and fixture Berkeley location) offers three classes a day by donation, some of them by candlelight and all of them dana approved. And they're not the only ones. Here's a list of places that will relieve that tension you've been holding, including the strain in your wallet. (Caitlin Donohue)

YOGA TO THE PEOPLE

Class schedule online, donations

2673 16th St., SF

64 Shattuck, Berkeley

www.yogatothepeople.com

GREY AREA FOUNDATION FOR THE ARTS

Mondays, 6-7:30 p.m., donations