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A little extra money :)

August 18th, 2006 at 06:35 am

Yesterday I got a letter from the election board about working a special school bond election in September. It wouldn't pay as much as the regular ones ($70 vs. $200), but it's a much shorter day. I do have qualms about it--I've heard there can be more nastiness and shenanigans at these elections--but I guess I'll put in to do it.
I don't feel like I ought to turn down $70.

This morning I got an email from Amazon about a book that sold--$48 for a textbook DH retrieved from the trash at work! (It's still in very nice condition.)

Bookselling not what it used to be

May 6th, 2006 at 11:19 am

I'm posting this to remind myself for the Nth time, forget about selling books online!!!

They were having a booksale at the library I was going to anyway, so DH and I went in to see what we could find. It was toward the end, so we could each get a bag's worth for $5. Most of what I picked up were out-of-print, nonfiction titles that several years ago might have brought $9 to $18 on Amazon. Out of 13 I bought today, 12 are going for less than $1. One is even going for -0-, just shipping! The other one is about $4.50, but there's a paperback edition going for practically nothing--so why would anyone pay more for a well-used hardcover?

Well, the library's budget's been cut, so I'll just consider it a donation. And there are a few paperbacks I want to read myself, and then can swap, so it's not a total loss.

My lesson for today is, the best thing for me to do is stay away from library booksales, and recognize that Times Have Changed.

Ebay stores?

March 15th, 2006 at 11:16 am

The 10-cent listing fee for today spurred me on to list a few items on Ebay. With photos from the digital camera--Yes!

Not that I got my listings for 10 cents. I like it when other people offer Buy It Now, so I use it when I list something. Also, I've been through listing items for a very low starting bid, and having them go for that price. There's no way I'm going to let a rare book go for a penny, so I also set reserve prices.

It got me thinking--would it be more worthwhile to set up an Ebay store? They give you the first 30 days free, then it's $15.95 a month. My mom's interested in selling some stuff, too, so maybe it would be worthwhile. I like the idea of having it more like Amazon, where the items can just sit at my set price til the right buyer comes along. For some reason, I really dislike the whole auction thing, as a buyer or a seller.

I wonder whether they still charge the monthly fee if you're on vacation? What if you have to close your store completely, and then want to open one again in a year or so--will they let you back in? If anyone knows, I'd appreciate the info.

In addition to the shower curtain, music box, and two books on Ebay, I listed another book on Amazon and got a $20 rebate ready to go. Went to Aldi's yesterday. Basically, I've been working on stuff that will catch us up financially rather than going on to anything new that will cost money.

$20 Challenge

January 30th, 2006 at 07:19 am

DH put up the can crusher this weekend, so things are finally moving. I crushed a month's worth of cans we'd been saving--it was quite a workout! I can tell it's going to help my upper arm and shoulder strength. Wink The bin I have to keep the crushed cans in is about 1/2 full, so I guess I'll have to take them in every 2 months. It won't come to much money each time, but I don't want to get overrun with the things.

I have between $2 and $3 left of the $20 to use on Ebay listing fees, but I'm not quite ready. I need to play around with the digital camera and figure out how to put pictures in a listing. Also, I need to look into free photo hosting services again. I had one lined up (called Y44 or something), but I just got an email from them saying they're going out of business. I've sold on Ebay before, but not things that required photos, so this is why it's a new project for the challenge.

Last time I voted, I signed up to be a (paid) election board worker. They don't often open it to new people, so I jumped on it. But it's a slow process. This week I'm mailing back the card saying I'm still interested and am willing to go to training. Then there will be the training, and waiting for someone to drop out so I'll be called. But once you're in, you can make some decent money for a couple of days' work a year.

Another thing I need to do is change settings on my computer so Fatwallet's cash back feature will work. I found instructions on their site awhile back, but never got around to fixing things.

What a day

January 5th, 2006 at 11:53 am

I feel like I'm ready to take a nap or go to bed early, but I still need to work this evening...

Started the day by filling out and faxing the HSA forms to DH's human resources person at around 7 a.m. Called later to make sure it went through. Sounds good, but I'll feel better when I see the deductions on DH's next paycheck.

Then I had to get the dog to her annual vet appointment. She gets very nervous and they needed an extra assistant in the room to hold her still. A muzzle is a given, but when I asked they said yes, a tranquilizer might be a good idea next time. Quite an experience.

She's over 10 now, and seems to be getting the beginning of arthritis. The doctor recommended trying a special Science Diet food for joint disease, but you have to get it by prescription and it isn't cheap. $19.99 for a 10-pound bag of dry when I'm used to paying about $8. Or $1.50 a can, when I'm used to paying 50 cents. Plus I still have a lot in Petsmart gift cards to use up, and I wouldn't be able to get this food there. I just can't see committing to spending that extra money right now. Especially since the doctor only mentioned it at my asking, and pointed out that the dog was still pretty lively. So I'll try not to feel guilty. She can't be in too bad shape if she's still running up the steps just to show DH a new chewy bone. Smile

Mailed in the rabies certificate for the new dog license. Switched the newspaper billing to the debit card. Mailed a book that sold on Amazon, and a rebate. Picked up requests at the library. And all afternoon I've been working on taxes.

I sold a lot of stuff on Amazon last year, and a pretty large percentage of the items were things I'd bought at full price for personal use, and then sold later. But I feel like I have to report a sale as income unless I have a receipt to prove what it cost me (just in case we ever get audited). I was able to pull up old Amazon purchases, and an Ebay purchase through my Paypal account. But there are still quite a few purchases I have no receipts for. At least I got the taxable Amazon income down by $200. A lot of work to save about $30 on our taxes, now that I think about it...

Another no-cc day. Wrote a check at the vet.

Allowance refinements

November 1st, 2005 at 04:02 pm

I started out this morning thinking it would be nice to have a special bright-colored checkbook cover for the separate checking account, so it would be obvious which account it was for, and easy to find in my purse. I figured the debit card for the account could be tucked inside too.

I surfed around on Ebay for awhile, and as often happens, ideas start occuring to me. Kind of like when you're very relaxed in the shower, or driving smoothly along a highway. Smile Ideas like, I also need to have part of my allowance in cash, which means two different types of items, bills and coins. Then there are gift cards that are specifically for me, like for Dress Barn. I started wondering whether I wanted a whole separate wallet for "me" things, but two wallets in my purse would be awfully thick and bulky.

I finally settled on getting an oblong cosmetics type bag, not too thick, long enough for the checkbook, with a zipper on top. It finally occured to me that I already had an old one I could try out. It's a little worn and I'm no longer wild about the color, but it will do the job til I can find something cute for a reasonable price. I used it today, and found it's also a good place for corralling receipts. I think this just might work!

I've also decided on $100 a month, $25 in cash and $75 to the new account. I don't know whether that sounds like a lot, or not much. I can say it's 6.5% of my take-home pay, and much less than what DH gets to play with per month.

So far, what I've spent on me:

$1.25 for paperbacks off the booksale rack at work, that I can trade for ones I want through frugalreader.com and paperbackswap.com
$.20 for some photocopies
$4.13 mailing books out for swaps, also a CD that sold on Amazon
$9.90 checks for the new account

I've got to get things switched at Amazon so sale proceeds will go into the new account. It didn't work when I tried, they couldn't confirm the account number or something. So I have to fax some info to a toll-free number. Have to remember to do it before my next payment is due to come through.

For the first time in months, I drove by a Joann's store today and felt like I'd be able to go in and actually buy something there soon. It was a nice feeling.

Amabuddy.com

October 6th, 2005 at 11:46 am

I'm borrowing this from Five Cent Nickel on PFBlog.com, where I just read about it. I tried it today, and it actually worked, as advertised!

Say you're out at a bookstore and wonder if you can get a book cheaper on Amazon. Or you're at a library booksale or yard sale and wonder if a book is worth trying to resell. What you do is call this number on your cell phone: 617-712-3574 and when prompted, enter the ISBN number from the book. It tells you the list price, Amazon's price for new, and the lowest used price listed by Marketplace sellers. Today at the booksale, it saved me from spending money on quite a few books that are only selling for pennies on Amazon. I was able to keep my spending to only $3, which included two books I wanted for myself, plus several I can sell for a total of about $18. And I don't have to go lugging a bunch of unsellable books to Goodwill, after lugging them all home in the first place.

If you want to buy a book you looked up through their number, they ask that you go to their website and order it through their interface so they get a small affiliate fee back from Amazon. In any case, it doesn't cost YOU anything but the cell phone call. I'm very happy with it--especially since I just saw an ad for a similar business that wants $4.99 a month for the service.

What's wrong with this picture? - Part II

June 30th, 2005 at 08:24 am

Giving things away and throwing them out IS fast and easy. It can be a good quick fix for a crisis situation. But quick fixes aren't necessarily what work in the long term, and they often cause other problems. And they don't teach you good skills for the future.

If you have a bad day at work, drinking a beer when you get home might calm you down for the moment. Stick with that as your main tool for dealing with stress, you've got a drinking problem.

If you keep buying more and then just throwing or giving things away as your main tool for controlling clutter, it's a money problem waiting to happen--especially if you're carrying credit card debt. It's possible someone could be giving away things that haven't even been paid for yet. Wouldn't it be better to try and sell them and recoup at least a little money?

I came across a story about Suze Orman, who supposedly suggested this: Get a dollar bill and hold it in your hand. Are you able to tear it up and throw it away? For most people, the answer is no. So, when you're tempted to buy something that you might end up throwing/giving away, imagine it is a dollar bill and remember how you wouldn't want to throw IT away.

I'm not a big Suze Orman fan, but that's great advice for preventing clutter in the first place.

Some of the organizing folks suggest clutter prevention tactics like "one new item purchased, one old item out." A workable idea, but they are still saying to give or throw away the "one old item out." To me, that just reinforces the habit of wasting money. Easy come, easy go. I don't want to be that way anymore. If I'm ever going to feel like a "grown-up," I've got to stop taking the easy way out.

On the other hand, I know someone who's taken 18 years (so far) to try and deal with a houseful of stuff she inherited. Because she's so fixated on getting every penny out of it, it's taking WAY too long. I don't want to live that way, either.

There's got to be a happy medium--and that's what I'm trying to find.

I can see where yard sales aren't ideal. We don't have the storage space to hold enough for a really good sale. We also don't live on a street that gets much traffic.

I'm not crazy about Ebay, either. I've tried it a few times, and had one $125 success story. But mostly it seems like more work than it's worth.

Amazon's been great because it's quick to list things and then you can forget about them until a sale comes through. I did get aggravated about it this past week, but it was because I was, as usual, trying to do too much at once. I ended up having to make two trips to the PO in one day, there was so much to take. But, I can control the flow of sales by not listing everything at once. I can wait to list more until I have more mailing supplies on hand. And if life gets really busy I can put all my listings "on vacation."

Two more ideas sound good to me right now. Consignment stores, and craigslist.org.

The consignment store near me has you make appointments to bring things in, and you can go as often as once a month. It should be just as easy to do that as make a trip to Goodwill, and there's the possibility of getting a little money out of it.

http://www.craigslist.org is kind of a huge, free, online classified ad section. (You wouldn't believe what some of the ads are for!) There are different craigslist web pages for different areas. I like the idea a lot better than freecycle.org. If I decide to take the risk of having a stranger come get something at our house, at least we'd be getting some money out of it.

And since both of these deal with people in the local area, they overcome a major Ebay problem--how to sell things that are too expensive to ship.

I want to look into some local, real auction houses. And there are always the used book and CD stores where we can turn things in for credit.

There so many other options besides giving and throwing things away, that just take a little more time and effort and can also help the budget a little. I only wish someone had suggested them to me when I was in that major decluttering phase.

What's wrong with this picture? - Part I

June 28th, 2005 at 06:43 am

I just keep shaking my head lately over all the stuff I've thrown away and given away in the name of "decluttering." Things I could have sold and probably gotten hundreds of dollars for.

I'm not a naturally organized person. So I've been reading housekeeping and organizing advice for years, trying to get on top of things in our house. A couple of years ago things had gotten really bad, and I started decluttering big time, following advice in books and on websites like Flylady.net.

There was something strange about all that advice that never occurred to me. But now that I'm looking high and low for ways to generate extra cash, it's pretty obvious. Virtually all of those organizing gurus seem to discourage you from actually selling things and would rather have you throw or give things away.

In The Messies Manual, by Sandra Felton, "As you move from one spot to another, take with you three boxes: a give-away box, a throw-away box, and a storage box." (No box for things to sell.)

In Conquering Chronic Disorganization, by Judith Kolberg you divide your belongings into Friends, Acquaintances and Strangers, then--"Identify the Strangers and throw them away immediately. Determine a very personal charity, and donate your Acquaintances." Regarding an overabundance of books, "He can buy as many books as we wants, but for each one he buys, one must be donated, given to friends, or discarded." (Again, no suggestion that anything could or should be sold--not even something relatively easy to sell like books.)

In the Organizing Sourcebook, by Kathy Waddill, "Once you decide to let go of things, get them out of your way as soon as possible...Take items to your nearest charity, get a receipt, and deduct the value of your donation from your tax return." (What if you don't itemize your deductions?)

She gives an example given of how to clear out a basement that not only didn't generate any cash, it actually cost money!

"They rented a dumpster, bought some pizza and a few cases of beer, and invited friends and family to help them out. In less than a day, they had a big, empty, clean basement that the whole family could use. As soon as they made up their minds to tackle the problem, they made it disappear."

Flylady says we are to declutter for 15 minutes a day, using 27-Fling Boogies. "Take a garbage bag and walk through your home and throw away 27 items. Do not stop until you have collected all 27 items. Then close the garbage bag and pitch it. DO NOT LOOK IN IT!!! Just do it. Next, take an empty box and go through your home collecting 27 items to give away." "Do not save your clutter for a yard or garage sale, you will be blessed by giving it away."

Elsewhere on her website, Flylady encourages finding ways to economize, get money into savings, and paying off your debt. We are supposed to do things like cut down on air conditioning to save money--after we've thrown or given away 1680 items over the course of a month that might have brought in more than enough to keep the house comfortable. There is some kind of disconnect here...

I've got a lot of thoughts rolling around in my head on this, but for the sake of not making this too long, I'll post Part II tomorrow.

Remembering why I stopped selling on Amazon

June 23rd, 2005 at 07:50 am

Over the past month, I've listed a lot of items on Amazon again, to try and raise some quick extra cash. Financially, it's been worthwhile--so far I've netted about $150 after mailing supplies and postage. But I'd forgotten how much it disrupted my life when I was doing it as a business.

It's not one of those things you can do when you feel like it or have time. Once someone orders an item, you are committed to mail it out within 2 business days. Sometimes, it's just not convenient because of my work schedule or things I need to do at home. Sometimes, I don't have the mailing supplies on hand and have to run out for padded envelopes when I really can't spare the time. Last night I tried 3 dollar stores for envelopes, and they were all out!

Plus, I start to get stressed out when the volume of stuff to be shipped gets beyond a certain point. I've had 28 items to mail out since June 1. I start to worry whether I've addressed things correctly, whether I've mailed the right item to the right person. I worry I haven't looked at things carefully enough so people are satisfied I described the condition accurately.

So basically, for me, it's kind of a high-stress way to raise money. I think this next week when I'm on vacation, I'm going to take the rest of the stuff to a used CD store (they give cash) and a used book store (they give credit) and be done with it.

Update--the ants have slowed down. I used talcum powder in one spot and will be trying the cucumber peels in another spot today. The a/c problem seems to have been a fluke. We're signed up for a "cool savings" program where the electric co. can turn off your a/c remotely if electricity demand is high. So that's probably what happened Saturday. I just can't understand why they cut it off on an 80-degree day instead of the 96-degree days we had last week. Oh, well...