Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Timing is Everything

Have yourself a merry little Dec. 28...it's a pointless day. Well, not really. It just doesn't have the same excitement about it that this time last week had. But yet, there is still some magic - at least in the land of retail. Yes, I'm talking about the after Christmas sales. Yay!!

Everything last week was completely overpriced. And you paid it, didn't you? There's really not too many options when it's too close to Christmas to order online and you have the Dec. 25 deadline looming. Yeah, I did it too. Paid full retail for a book at Barnes and Noble - oh I HATE that. But, they had me. And they knew it.

This week, however, is a different story. There are sales out the wazoo. Perfect chance to use the giftcards and/or cash you got. Or to return the item you received to get what you really want. Not that that happened to me. I love all of my gifts. Equally. Really. ::wink::

Case in point. My little mom gave me $5.00 to get a Christmas ornament from Starbucks. "But little mom, what I really want is an actual beverage." "No, you need one of those for your tree, they're our drinks." Ok. So I waited. On purpose. Until today. They were on sale, as I kind of figured they would be and I paid $2.99 instead of $4.99 and have $2.00-ish (sales tax-yuck) to give back to her. I love outsmarting the system. Riiiight. If I'm so smart why do they get me with their $4 lattes on a weekly basis? Whatever. Moving on.

Bath & Body Works has their big sale this time of year, the Semi-Annual sale at V's Secret is in motion, and a lot of the clothing retailers are clearing out for spring. You may even want to try to think about gifts for next year - if you can stand it :) So take the gift card you got in your stocking and check out your favorite store. You may be able to stretch that gift card further than you would any other time of year. Have fun!

"I live in Notting Hill. You live in Beverly Hills. Everyone in the world knows who you are, my mother has trouble remembering my name." ~Notting Hill

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Spend Less at Christmas

It's freezing outside (literally) and I have Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers' "Once Upon a Christmas" playing ("I'll be home with bells on..."). So - I'm officially inspired to write a Christmas blog. It's crazy how much money you could spend on gifts and charities and decorations and Black Friday and Christmas cards and yummy treats (have you had the Christmas beverages at Starbucks? The Peppermint Mocha is a York Peppermint Pattie in a cup!) and the heat bill is going to be triple what it was last month, I'm sure. Anywho, don't stress. Here are some of my bestest tips.

1. Here's my favorite gift idea. If you've had a family event during the year - i.e., wedding, summer picnic, reunion, holiday, etc. - I hope you took your camera. Giving people pictures already in a frame is a GREAT gift. It has a lot of personality and costs $0.20 to print a 4"x 6" at Wal-Mart. And don't forget my tip about how to buy picture frames. Or you could go to TJMaxx - they have AMAZING (and pretty inexpensive) frames - I just recently discovered this. This year I went to my cousin's wedding and got a picture of my oldest cousin with my Granddaddy. They're both dressed up and laughing and they have no idea I was taking a picture. It's so cute. And it was very inexpensive.

"Christmas without you, white Christmas and I'm blue..."

2. Opt not to give gifts. There are some people this doesn't work with. But I bet you have 2 or 3 people you typically get presents for that would secretly be relieved if you decided not to exchange gifts. Last year I did this with my bestest buddy and we went to lunch instead. We probably talked for an hour and a half and I don't miss the present. It was so fun we're doing it again this year. And we're going to use a coupon from restaurant.com (read this if you're unfamiliar with how it works). Can't wait!

"You made this a Christmas to remember. Springtime feelings in the middle of December..."

3. Just say NO to Christmas cards. Does this make me a Scrooge? Maybe. I'm not a fan of Christmas cards. I think I may have sent them out the first year I was married, but just gave up after that. Now I know people with kiddos make those cute cards with their kids' pictures on it and those are cool. But you could elimate some expense by only sending them to family and/or people NOT on Facebook. That should at least cut your list in half. Stamps are $0.44 cents now. So 10 cards is dinner at Wendy's. Just putting it in perspective.

"Knowing you're in love with me is the greatest gift of all..."

4. For extended family I make my world famous and globally adored chocolate chip cookies. Each groups of parents/kids gets a Christmas plate (purchased from the Goodwill) full of freshly baked yummy-ness. Cover with saran wrap and top with a festive bow. Yay!

5. Christmas can be busy, fun, stressful, overwhelming, nostalgic, beautiful and over before you know it. I have a massive list of traditions I have to do every year - without them it just wouldn't be Christmas. But there is one tradition I value above all the others. The Christmas Eve service at church is subtly extraordinary. For just under an hour we'll sit in the candlelit sanctuary, hear the Christmas story, sing carols, and take communion. It's kind of hard to explain the specialness of it if you don't already know what I'm talking about. But in those few moments I slow down enough to consider the hugeness of what happened when God left heaven and came to earth because of his immeasurable love for me (and you by the way). So, as busy as you are, don't skip this part of the season. And if you've never done it, go to church this Christmas and don't leave until you figure out what the big deal is.

"I never thought it was such a bad little tree. It's not bad at all, really. Maybe it just needs a little love." ~ A Charlie Brown Christmas

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Sunrises are Free

1 Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.

2 Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.

3 Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.

5 For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.

I am thankful for the sunrise that God provides every day and a husband who never takes anything too seriously.

"This is extremely important. Will you please tell Santa that instead of presents this year, I just want my family back. No toys, nothing but Peter, Kate, Buzz, Megan, Linnie and Jeff. And my aunt and my cousins. And in a few years time, my Uncle Frank." ~Home Alone

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

100 Things To Be Thankful For

I was having pancakes at my in-laws recently and we were discussing Thanksgiving. I mentioned that I was OK with saying what I was thankful for around a dinner table with family, but I didn't really care to do it in front of a ton of people, say, at church. Just because everybody says the same thing, and when it gets to my turn, I feel like I'm "copying" everyone else when I say "Family, friends, church, home, job, country, health..." Don't get me wrong. I'm EXTREMELY thankful for all of those things. But my Father-in-law (F.I.L.) said "There's tons of things to be thankful for. I'm thankful for that toilet in there." Then I said, "I'm thankful for toilet paper!" Hey, this could be fun. So in the spirit of being thankful, here's my list of things to be thankful for. Feel free to pick one to say when it's your turn to say what you're thankful for this year.

In no particular order:

1. Indoor plumbing

2. Toilet tissue

3. Chocolate chip cookies

4. Chocolate chip cookie dough

5. BLT's

6. A freshly vacuumed house

7. A warm shower

8. Snuggies (I used to be a hater, until I got one for Christmas - it's the best)

9. A made up bed

10. Paid days off

11. Yard sales

12. Coupons

13. Good hair days

14. Soy Mocha Frappucinos

15. French fries (any kind - waffle, steak, crinkly, etc. I don't discriminate)

16. Getting all the green lights

17. Hearing a song you love on the radio

18. Heated seats

19. Twilight movies (guilty pleasure)

20. Finding a new author you LOVE and reading all of their books

21. Dansko shoes

22. Wasting time on Youtube

23. Painted toe nails

24. Munchkins (the Dunkin Donut variety)

25. Pop Tarts

26. Free time

27. Meeting Jane Seymour

28. Walking around Barnes and Noble

29. Remembering a funny joke long enough to repeat it

30. No new cavities

31. Date nights

32. Waking up at 4:00am and realizing you have 2 more hours to sleep - yay!

33. Nice clients

34. Bath and Body Works hand soap and shower gel

35. Caffeine

36. Dharma & Greg reruns

37. Seinfeld reruns

38. The day your online order comes in the mail

39. An unexpected card in the mail

40. Vintage Christmas balls

41. Hoodies

42. Tennis shoes

43. Feeling smarter after reading a non-fiction book

44. A new issue of your favorite magazine

45. Gift cards

46. Mascara

47. Going to Nascar qualifying at Martinsville (embrace the redneck within)

48. Free shipping

49. Panera chips (I know, I know, me and the potato products, enough already!)

50. Gas logs in the TV room

51. Sunday naps

52. Outlet malls

53. A funny commercial (Geico's bird in the hand, anyone?)

54. Coca-cola Classic in a glass bottle (mmm...)

55. Traditions

56. Going to the grocery store early in the morning when there's no crowd to fight

57. A good parking spot

58. Coach bags

59. Cats (the animal, not the musical)

60. A weekly TV addiction

61. Selling something for more than you expected on eBay

62. When the power comes back on after an outage (I literally cheer out loud)

63. Perfect weather on a big yard sale day

64. Reading through the birthday cards at Target

65. Movie quotes

66. Paid off cars

67. Fast internet

68. Cable TV

69. Inside jokes

70. 40% off coupons to Michaels and/or A.C. Moore

71. Movie previews

72. Google (makes my life easier)

73. Not being in school anymore (although the longer I live the more I realize high school never really ends, or so it seems)

74. 5:oopm on weekdays :)

75. Warm clothes straight out of the dryer

76. Flowers

77. Hymns ("great old hymns of the faith" to be exact, Stephanie)

78. pandora.com

79. Used book sales

80. Having a pair of scissors handy right when you need them

81. An empty dishwasher

82. The perfect picture for the perfect picture frame

83. Soft cinnamon pretzels dipped in vanilla icing from Sheetz

84. Wedding pictures

85. Lunch on Thursdays...and Saturdays

86. New Facebook friends

87. A pen that writes really well

88. 90's on 9 (XM radio)

89. Hammocks (although I don't have one, I imagine they would be the best)

90. Tylenol PM

91. Gift wrap

92. "Clever", aka cheesy, church signs

93. Finding the motivation to work out

94. Quarters (perfect yard sale currency)

95. Uno cards

96. Paper plates with dividers (it's irrelevant that it's all going to the same place)

97. Channel surfing

98. Hello Kitty

99. Longaberger

100. Being in the church sanctuary all by yourself (but not really alone)

I know that many of these may seem superficial, but a lot of them come with memories and warm fuzzies, which means they're somehow tied to relationships and family, which is what I'm truly grateful for. For example, #95 is Uno Cards and when I think of Uno Cards I remember sitting around the table after Thanksgiving lunch last year playing with a group of about 6 of us. The hubby and one of the cousins start "working together", aka cheating. So another cousin leans over to my little mom and says "Let's work together too". To which she replies in all seriousness, "No thanks, I work better alone."

I'm thankful for church signs (#92) because whenever my dad or I pass a particularly lame one we call each other and share. "Give the devil and inch and he becomes your ruler." It's just painful.

Or how about yard sales (#11). Yeah, I find really great deals, and sometimes I can find things to resell, but mostly I just like spending Saturdays with my little mom.

So there you go. Being thankful is fun and it will put you in a good mood. You should give it a try. You might be surprised how "rich" you really are.

"I hope nobody I know drives by and sees me standing in the yard staring at the house in my pajamas." ~Christmas Vacation

Thursday, October 28, 2010

All I want to do is read. Not sure why, but recently the obsession has become extreme. I don't clean, I don't cook, I force myself to go to work, I even have a hard time blogging, so strong is the urge to just curl up with one of the 10 books (not exaggerating) that I have checked out of the library. That's not including the 6 or so used ones I've purchased at yard sales recently that need to be read.

I partly blame TV. Have you noticed there are NO good shows on? Even my tried and true, go-to favorites are weak this year. House and Cutty are together so now that show is lame, Glee is in it's sophomore slump, Grey's Anatomy is running out of steam and The Office is no fun since I know that the life of the party is leaving at the end of the season. Oh well, if you know of a good show on TV right now, I'm open to suggestions.

Anyway, this crazy addiction of mine is great for the blog because library books are...wait for it...FREE!! The thing is, they're not actually free if you don't return them on time. And did you know that this summer, they raised the rate to $0.20 per day for all overdue items? That's bad. Especially for me. I racked up the fines easy enough at $0.10 per day with only 2 or 3 books out at a time. With the higher rate and the ridiculous amount of material I have checked out at one given time, there is a huge potential for some major issues.

Enter Little Mom. She introduced me to the Library Elf. Picture Legolas from Lord of the Rings. Ok, not really, but that was fun, right? Anyway, go to www.libraryelf.com and sign up with your library card number. (Don't worry, it's free, our favorite price.) It sends you an email when you have a book due. You will never be late again. I haven't been late with a single book since I signed up. And it even sends you an email when a book you have on reserve is ready to be picked up. Yay!! Those emails make me really happy. It's the little things.

"Oh...Warner! I totally forgot you go here." ~Legally Blonde

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Five *More* Things to ALWAYS Buy Used

I'm thinking buying used is the easiest way to save money. Well, after not buying. But what fun is that?

1. Blenders. It doesn't take that much effort to find a blender at a yard sale. And you definitely want to buy it for $3 used as opposed to new for - I don't know, how much do blenders run these days anyway? I bought a blender the other week, with the intention of making healthy smoothies and my own frappucinos (to save $) all the time. Yeah, that didn't happen. Blenders are like hats. Almost always a bad idea, unless it's a baseball cap or a toboggan, or unless you're British and dating Wills. Back to the point. I very rarely use my blender, but it's ok because I only paid $3.

2. Kids clothes. Much like toys, little kids don't care what they wear or what brand it is or how much you paid for it. The BFF and I were at kids consignment sale this past weekend. She loaded up - everything in there was $1-5. And it was supah-cute :) I'm thinking you can probably get away with it until they're at least 5 - that dreaded age when they go to school and they learn, not that 2+2=4 or "u" always follows "q", but that clothes from Wal-Mart are somehow not as cool as clothes from the mall. Seems like a no-win. Kind of makes the case for home schooling. Or uniforms.

3. Cars. You can literally save thousands by buying used. Don't let it make you nervous. If you buy from a car dealership, they usually certify it or offer some type of warranty. And here's a tip they probably don't want you to know - you can talk the price down on a used car much easier than a new one. There's barely any mark up on a new one (believe it or not), but TONS of mark up on a used one. I have a source. So trust me, there's lots of wiggle room on price on a used car. But you didn't hear it from me.

4. Art. I'm not smart enough to understand art. If it's too abstract for me to tell what it is, I'm not interested. My taste in art is very unrefined - I like movie posters, retro signs and wooden game boards. Lucky for me these can all be found for pretty cheap if you buy them used. And in my lowly opinion, it's more fun and your home will ultimately have more personality if you buy a cute used piece here and there that really "speaks" to you (oh, listen at me, I sound so artsy), than by filling your walls with generic prints from Bed, Bath & Beyond (at full price...boo!). But again, that's just me.

5. Furniture. Not all furniture. But things that don't require any cushion - like the dinner table and chairs, side tables for the couch, book shelves, dresser drawers, desks, etc. I'd also like to lump exercise equipment into the furniture category. You'll feel less guilty when the treadmill turns into a coat stand if you don't pay full price for it.

"Music to drown by. Now I know I'm in first class." ~Titanic (It is imperative that you say this movie quote with an Irish accent.)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

5 Things to ALWAYS Buy Used

You've heard it before. Buy used.

1. Books. I love going in Barnes & Noble. All those shiny new books. I gain brain cells just by walking in the door. Have you ever looked at all of those books? Everybody in the universe has written a book. Smart people, dumb people, dumb people who think they're smart. Makes me want to write one. How hard could it be? And the way they have them displayed. Oh. Marketing people are geniuses. Meandering around those displays makes me want to read The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo and all of the other classics. But after I leave, the feeling goes away and I go back to devotionals and biographies and money books and super light fiction and magazines and ::gasp!:: TV.

Problem is, all of those pretty books are somewhere between $10 and $30...each!! Here's some help. All of the books at the library are...wait for it...FREE! Yay! Free is our friend. At the Goodwill, paperbacks are $0.75 and hardbacks are $1.00. 75% of all yard sales have books for sale - usually $0.25 - $2.00. (Don't pay more than $2.00 for a book at a yard sale unless you just really really want it.) Friends of the Library and other non-profits have book sale fundraisers - go the first day to see if there's anything you can't live without (typically at about $2-$5 per book, still less than B&N) and then go the last day - they usually have "fill a box for $3" at the end. After exhausting these options, check online. Even with shipping a lot of times used books online are still cheaper - eBay, Amazon.com, half.com. Even craigslist.org might have what you're looking for.

Note to Students (this means you Rebecca, my one and only official "follower"): Buy and sell your textbooks online. You'll pay less and get back more. It's super easy, just enter the ISBN number on any of the websites listed above and...voila! You're in business. And if you make your selling price $0.02 less than everyone else, your book will pop up first and sell faster. Anyway, Liberty doesn't need any more of your money :)

By the way, if you have a gift card, all bets are off. Do whatever you want. I paid full price for Breaking Dawn because I couldn't wait to find it used - I needed to read it right then to find out what happens between the Cullens and the Volturi. The movie doesn't come out until Nov. 2011!Aah! Do you see the dilemma? Thankfully I had a gift card to B&N. Shoo. That could've been bad. (Thanks Auntie!)

2. CD's. Same with books. I find them at Goodwill and yard sales ALL THE TIME. It's super fun to find "vintage" CD's that were popular about 10 years ago. I found an N'Sync album, paid $0.50 and can jam down the road..."it ain't no lie, baby bye, bye, bye." Can't you just see them on their little puppet strings? Lol. Digressing. Sorry.

So maybe you don't want to wait a decade to buy a CD. That's fine. Check online first. If it's been out for any length of time, it may be cheaper on the Bay or Amazon. For example, the Lady Antebellum CD and Taylor Swift's Fearless CD are on Ebay right now for $9.98 (including shipping). Don't let Ebay scare you. I don't know this for sure, but I would say 75% of everything available to buy on Ebay is set at a fixed price - no auction or bidding or stressing.

Ok, that's not too much of a savings, but here's your other option. I usually don't listen to every song on every CD. There are some I always skip. Wouldn't it be great to only pay for the songs I want? Enter iTunes. Make your own CD. Pay $0.99/song on iTunes and get only the ones you would listen to anyway. You could even mix it up, 2 Taylor songs, "I Need You Now", throw in a Glee show tune or 2, round it off with Daughtry's latest and you've got the best of 4 CD's for the price of one. Yay!

3. Picture Frames. You can really dump a buttload of money on picture frames. My cousin used that phrase once and I asked him, "How much is a buttload, exactly?" and my G.Diddy, sitting next to him, said matter-of-factly, "Depends on the size of the butt." Glad we cleared that up. At the same time, you can save a buttload of money if you always buy your frames used. Much like books, there are almost ALWAYS pictures frames to be found at yard sales. Every style, every size. Usually $1 and under. Also, thrift stores have them in abundance. In addition, a coat of paint can breath new life into a dated frame or help one that you received as a gift fit into your shabby chic decor...or whatever. Anywho, the point is, never buy them new. Unless you've looked and looked to no avail...then at least use a 40% off coupon.

4. DVD's. This really only works for older DVD's. Before you do anything, check online. You know, the usual suspects - Ebay, Amazon... If you're looking for an older movie, you can do pretty good. I found Top Gun for the hubby for $7 (including shipping) for Christmas one year. He'd seen it 10x but didn't have his own copy. He was still watching my parents' VHS of it. That was an easy fix. Also, and this may surprise you, but you can also find movies at...Yard Sales!! :) But the small issue here is that it's hit or miss - there's no consistent inventory. If they hadn't closed all of the Blockbusters around here you could check the Previously Viewed DVD's. It's been almost a year and I'm still bitter. I go to rent a movie one day and they're gone. Digressing again.

Again, this really only works with older movies. If you're waiting with baited breath for Eclipse to come out on DVD, you'll probably be paying full price. Except I think W'Mart & Tar-zhay run specials the first week a DVD comes out. Hmm. I'll be paying attention for sure.

5. Kids' Toys. They don't have a clue. Seriously, at least until they're 3, maybe even 4 and 5, when they hit school, they have no idea if you bought it new or used. Not sure that they care. My BFF, let's just call her Jessica, buys toys at yard sales ALL THE TIME. She's running out of room in her house. The other day I was talking to her on the phone and her little man was shrieking and squealing in the background on a little slide and playground set she had found for dirt cheap. Listen, they're going to be wanting their own cell phone and ipod and a TV in their room soon enough - buy used while you still can!!

"There is no such thing as natural beauty." Dolly Parton in Steel Magnolias (again)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

What Sells on Ebay?

I've been selling on eBay a while. I think a lot of people don't do it because it's A LOT of work. Take the picture, do the write up, list the item, answer shoppers' questions, ship the item. It is not always super fun, but I get extremely motivated after a big sale - when something goes for WAY more than I was expecting. To help you get motivated to get rid of things you don't need or want anymore to make some extra cash to pay down debt, squirrel away money for Christmas presents (how many shopping days left?), or just to have some extra change in your pocket, here's my list of things that typically (no guarantees, see last week's blog) do really well on the Bay.

1. Anything with Harley Davidson on it. I know this because the hubby used to work there. When he got a new job I sold his HD shirts and got between $10 and $20 for each of them (even the t-shirts). That's way better than yard sale prices!! And I'm not talking about just clothes - posters, brochures, mugs, stuffed animals, literally ANYTHING with Harley on it is gold. Also, any kind of motorcycle gear - helmets, riding jackets, boots, gloves, bike parts - all do VERY well. About 85% of everything I have ever listed that was a Harley item has sold the first time around (meaning within a week). This includes and maybe even applies more to the Buell brand. Buell is the sport bike Harley came out with to appeal to the younger generation. They actually discontinued the Buell brand last year, but it still has quite a following. Anything with Buell on it sells (again no guarantees).

2. Vintage Barbie items. Do this - if you are an Ebay user and have an ID name and a password, sign in to your account. Type in "vintage barbie" in the search box and hit ENTER. Then scroll down and click on "Completed Listings" under preferences (left column). Directly above the listings on the right there's a little drop down box next to the words "Sort by". (Stay with me, it's worth it.) Click on Price: Highest First. If the price is in green, that is what the item actually sold for. Amazing. Barbie people are crazy. I've never been fortunate enough to sell a vintage Barbie piece for thousands, but I came across two vintage skippers at a yard sale I picked up for $2. One sold for $16 one sold for $28. Not bad. Also, I had two pink wool sweaters. One for Barbie, one for Skipper. They had belonged to my mom, and she played with them when she was little. The sweaters had the original Barbie tags in them, but they also had lots of moth damage. I did an experiment. I put the two sweaters on eBay, started the bid at $0.99 and clearly noted the damage (and showed pictures). The sweaters sold for $9!! Did you hear me?! Nine bucks for very damaged Barbie sweaters most people would have thrown away and that were a breeze to ship. (Buyer pays for shipping, in case you were wondering.)

3. Littlest Pet Shop. This is my biggest score to date. I knew Littlest Pet Shop toys did well on Ebay. You can do the same search that you did above for Barbie and see what Littlest Pet Shop toys are going for. It's insane. Anyway, I knew these toys did really well when I happened upon a brother and sister selling their entire set one day about a year ago. They wanted $0.25 each for them. Me: "How much will you take for the whole bag?" Them: "Uh, we'll count them." Hm. Obviously newbies to the yard sale world. When somebody says, "How much will you take if I buy all of them?" they mean "The price per unit had better go down." They counted 102 LPS animals and of course wanted $25.00. I now know that that's a very good deal, but I talked them down. Yes I haggled with little kids. I'm not proud of it. Moving on. Those 102 animals that I paid $15.00 for sold for $215.00. It's my greatest victory so far. :)

Actually, a lot of times if you sell things as a "lot" it gets more attention and it's less work for you than selling them individually. "Huge lot of Littlest Pet Shop Toys", "Huge lot of Build a Bear Clothes", "Huge Lot of Mary Kay", "Huge Lot of Vintage Fisher Price Little People". These are real listings - check them out and be amazed.

4. Wake up and pay attention. What's hot in pop culture right now? Every time a new Harry Potter movie comes out Harry Potter stuff on the Bay is really popular. If you have all 4 Twilight books in hardback and you don't plan on reading them again, you might try putting them on Ebay. Looks like other people are getting $30-40 for their sets (I refuse to sell mine - they are sooo good). Oprah stuff might be super popular the closer she gets to her last show. Take note of the guest mentor on American Idol or whose songs the Glee kids featured this week - their stuff might get a little more attention the following week. Who just won the Sprint Cup? Superbowl? World Series? Nothing major - just take the free marketing buzz in pop culture to get a few extra dollars on the stuff you don't want any more.

5. You are the expert. Sell what you know. I can't sell a baseball card on eBay to save my life. I don't know anything about them and am not interested enough to figure it out. But someone just sold a 1952 Topps #406 Joe Nuxhall Reds PSA 9 MINT LOW POP (I don't even know what all of that means) for $14,500.00. That's four...teen...thou...sand...five...hun...dred...dol...lars...!! Same with comic books and jewelry and art and vintage coke items and sporting goods. I don't have a clue, but maybe you're the world's greatest expert. Or, next best thing, maybe you know the expert. When I find a Longaberger basket at a yard sale (and the one time I did was the one time my mom wasn't with me), I called up my little mom, who is my own personal expert and started telling her what it looked like. She finished the description for me, told me the year it came out, the occasion (Mother's Day) and what it's selling for now. Amazing. Maybe you know everything there is to know about collectible glass or vintage military items or altered art or scrapbooking items or kids toys or cooking tools. There are sooooo many categories on eBay - I guarantee you're an expert on something. Start looking for things you're interested in and see what they're going for. Just remember you're here to sell, not buy - mostly. :)

6. Vintage Halloween items do really well. Not sure why, but I can't ever seem to get my hands on any of it to sell.

7. Animals do well. Not actual pets, but, for example, horse enthusiasts take their love for horses very seriously. I had a pack of vintage playing cards that had horses on them. Paid $1. Sold for $90. Surprised the stuffing out of me too. Anyway. Dog people are crazy for their particular breed. Cat people throw down the money for cat stuff. Chicken people are avid about chickens. Just so you know.

8. People shopping on Ebay are very name-brand conscious. Kate Spade, Coach, Vera Bradley purses; Ralph Lauren, Gymboree kids clothes; Anthropologie, True Religion, Roxy women's clothes; Hurley, Billabong guy's clothes, Timberland, Dansko, Nike shoes. Just keep in mind that while brand names do well, you're not going to get back what you paid for them. People on Ebay are looking for a deal.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. You could write a blog every day for 395 years and not come up with an exhaustive list (that may be a slight exaggeration). With eBay, just give it a try and see what happens. And if you're just not motivated to do this at all, find somebody who will. I bet you know an eBayer. Give them a box full of stuff with ZERO expectations (again, see last week's blog) and offer to split the profits. Yes - 50/50. Ebay is a ton of work. Whatever doesn't sell, take to the Goodwill or save for your yard sale. Your house will actually feel lighter with the absence of all the clutter.

"Now isn't this better than sitting at a table? A girl hasn't got but two sides to her at the table." Scarlett, Gone With the Wind

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Truth About Ebay

EBay is like Jerry Falwell or Hillary Clinton. Very polarizing. Love it or hate it. On the one hand, people love it because you can sell things you don't want anymore and make some extra cash. Sometimes you can score big if you find something valuable at a yard sale or the Goodwill for next to nothing and sell it for big bucks on the Bay. This is good. Some people hate it because it's a lot of work and sometimes your item doesn't sell for what you think it's worth, or worse, doesn't sell at all. This is no good.

I've been an eBay seller for years. I'm on the side of the fence with the people who LOVE it. It's a great way to make a little extra money for birthday presents for the hubby or money for vacation or the other extra curriculars of life. But I cringe when people come up to me and say: "I've got a set of crystal glasses (or whatever other things they paid too much money for) that I know are worth a lot of money, do you think they would sell on eBay? Could you sell it for me?" Argggg. #1, It probably isn't real crystal. I mean, really, can you prove it? #2, It's breakable. As much as possible I try to steer clear of breakables - too much trouble.

Here is what I know about eBay that has proven to be true EVERY SINGLE TIME.

Golden Rule of EBay: What you think is worth a lot of money (i.e., what you paid too much for) will not sell or will go for very little and what you think is worthless will sell for big money. For example I bought a 12" cardboard cutout of a 1970's Dolly Parton for $0.25 at the flea market. I thought I could decorate with it somehow, be artsy or some such nonsense. When started thinking clearly again, I said to myself, "Self, what was I thinking?" I'll put her on eBay, but she probably won't sell. Yeah. I got $19.25 for her. Crazy!! On the other hand, I've got Boyd's Bears and Lizzie High dolls for sale that I can't give away.

Silver Rule of EBay: There are exceptions to everything. Boyd's Bears don't really do all that well. I actually have a list of things that you're better off putting in a yard sale than eBay, but I'll share that in another blog. But Boyd's is one of them. Unfortunately they're going the way of Longaberger, Beanie Babies and a bunch of other country clutter collectibles. (Although I happen to love L'berger.) The world and eBay is flooded with them so they're not worth much. But, I just checked and a 1990 14" Boyd's Bear Nana Panda sold on Sept. 3 for $199.00. There are exceptions to everything. Every category, every product. Every week there are different people looking at different listings and it may be the week 3 people want your Vintage 1977 Troll Doll and it gets bid up to $45.00. Or it could be the week nobody cares and it doesn't sell (see Golden Rule above).

Bronze Rule of EBay: Get rid of all of your expectations. And please forget how much you paid for something. If you know you're not going to watch your Seinfeld (or Home Improvement or McGyver) DVDs ever again, wouldn't it be better to get $8-10 each (although you might actually get a little more) for them than to have them sitting in your closet for $0? Recently, as in last week, my boss brought me a Cricut machine with tons of accessories to sell for his wifey. Ok, that's fine, but I was uneasy about it the whole time because they wanted to get some of their money back out of it. We're talking $500-$600 invested in this lot of scrapbooking paraphernalia. It ended up selling for around $100.00. They're probably going to be disappointed, but it was an older model - not the newer, bigger one everyone is clamoring to buy (at around $300-375 each - if you have a Cricut Expression with some cartridges that you're not using, put that sucker on the Bay because they're doing really decent right now). Back to the point, which is: $100.00 cash is better than $0.00 stuck with something you're not going to use that's taking up space in your basement. Just sayin'.

I had a professor at Liberty (hence the Jerry Falwell reference at the beginning) that explained the concept of "sunk costs" this way: Let's say you're getting married. You've planned this big beautiful ceremony and you're getting ready to walk down the aisle with your emotional (albeit stoic) dad and suddenly, you realize, it's a mistake. You cannot base the decision of whether or not to go through with it on the invitations you bought and sent out, the money you paid for the flowers, the non-refundable down payment on the hotel for the honeymoon, or the cash you laid out for the ice sculpture (Really? An ice sculpture? No, but go with me on this). All of those things are sunk costs. You can't get them back regardless of your decision to marry (or not) the guy at the front of the church, so it can't, or rather shouldn't, have any influence on your decision. So it should be with things you're selling on the bay. Forget what you paid for them. Get rid of all of your expectations and then you might be pleasantly surprised when occasionally, things will go for more than you paid for them, or what you thought was worthless goes for hundreds. Yay! :)

Tons more to follow on the fabulous-ness of selling on eBay.

"Creme brulee can never be jello. You can never be jello!" ~My Best Friend's Wedding

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Little Changes...Big Savings

I love food. French fries especially. When they're a little over cooked and just a bit crispy, there's nothing better in this whole world. If you put them in front of me, regardless of whether or not I'm hungry, I'll eat them. It's bad. When I was really little, I'm told my Granddaddy went through the drive-thru at McD's 3x because I just kept devouring my fries. Obviously I've struggled with this addiction my whole life.

But that's not my point. My point is...fasting. Whoa! Where did that come from? Stay with me. I recently read/skimmed two books by Jeff Yeager, aka the Ultimate Cheapskate. Many principals in money books are the same - live below your means, be content with what you have, yada, yada - all very good money philosophies to adhere to. But I came away from The Ultimate Cheapskate's Road Map to True Riches and The Cheapskate Next Door with two brand new things I didn't know before. And I'm going to just tell you what they are in case you don't want to read the whole books. (They're not for sensitive readers - he occasionally sprinkles his writing with PG-13 humor/language. Just wanted to give fair warning. Okay, moving on.)

1. The wonders of Restaurant.com. This website is a gem. You can go there and search for local restaurants in your hometown. And buy gift certificates. You can pay $4 for a $10 card or $10 for a $25 card. Who knew? Obviously not me. Here's the catch - when you use it you have to spend a minimum amount and can only use one gift cert per visit. For instance if you buy 2 $10 gift cards to Schooners in Roanoke for $4/each, to use the gift cert you have to spend a minimum of $20 for your meal and you can only use one of the $10 gift certificates. Follow? Don't try ordering on "separate checks" either - they're too smart for that. Also note - sometimes this website runs bizarre specials. This week I got 80% off my entire purchase. Basically it cost $4.40 for $55 worth of gift cards. That's not a typo.

2. Frugal Fasting. Jeff Yeager came up with this concept and it basically means that you don't spend ANY money for 1 week. Don't go to the grocery store - eat the frozen waffles in the freezer. Don't rent a movie, watch the telly, or better yet, play a board game...outside...by candlelight...except I probably shouldn't because I would get eaten alive by killer mosquitoes. Don't go shopping, don't whip through the drive-thru, don't succumb to the vending machine. Just for one week. When I was in school and had a really tough class I hated, my dad would say, "You can do anything for 3 months." As graduation got closer he would say, "You can do anything for one month." The final 2 weeks of school and exams it changed slightly to, "You can stand on your head for two weeks." I think the point was, anything is do-able if you know it's temporary. If you can see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.

I'm going to take this concept and break it down into baby steps. Like giving up that one thing that you KNOW will save you money for just one week. Here are some ideas:

a: Eating out for lunch. I know everyone preaches against this and it gets old. And I know Chick-fil-a is way better than PB&J, but remember, it's only for a week. I absolutely hate packing lunches, but I do it anyway. It helps to pre-package your own snacks. Example: Buy saltines and make your own peanut butter crackers - put 3 or 4 or 5 (or whatever) in a baggie and make enough bags for the week. Makes life a whole lot easier come Wednesday and Thursday when you're losing your will-power to stay the course. You can make baggies for the week for all your snacky-type foods - pretzels, cheese-it's, even fruit. Still think it's a pain in the bottom? Buy bread, sandwich meat, and whatever else and put it in the fridge at work. Make your lunches at lunchtime. That's easy, right? Especially for just one little week.

b: Eating out for dinner. Why are you harping on this?! What is so wrong with eating out?!! Aaahhh!!! Nothing, actually. It's not a sin or anything. It's just one of the easiest ways to save money. That's why every blog and money-help book beats this topic to death. "But I have to eat out, I can't cook." said in a whiny, annoying voice. Friend, let me help you. Night 1 - frozen pizza. Even the expensive frozen pizza is cheaper than eating out. Night 2 - hot dogs (grilled on the George Foreman), tater tots (made in the toaster oven - Napoleon Dynamite would be so proud), and green beans. Night 3 - spaghetti and sauce from a jar. Did you even know this would be this easy? Night 4 - BLT, chips and fruit. Night 5 - breakfast foods, aka frozen waffles or cereal or oatmeal... Night 6 - Please tell me you have leftovers from at least one of these nights. Night 7 - Now what kind of teacher would I be if I gave you all the answers? Surely you can think of one measly little low-maintenance meal. I know you have it in you. And there you go - one week without eating out. Just call me Rachel Ray or Gordon Ramsey or some other famous chef. And look how much you saved!!!

c. A daily habit. Maybe it's Starbucks - and if it is, there is no judgement here. I understand. Starbucks is happiness in the form of a tall, grande, and/or venti caffeine-filled treat. Maybe it's a daily Red Bull or a Coca-Cola Classic. Confession: That's mine. I have a Coke every day. Nothing wrong with that. But it's something I don't need, I could easily save money by not drinking it and may save on dental bills in the long run if I can give up the one-a-day habit. What's your one-a-day? Vending machine? $1 tea from Hardees? Dunkin Donuts? Have a substitute so you're not completely going cold turkey. For instance I'll try making tea at home, taking it to work, and drinking that instead. Not nearly as fabulous, but better than nothing.

d. Cigarettes/alcohol. My dad has said he wishes he smoked or drank so he could give it up and save all that money. That's all I'll say.

And if you fall off or on the bandwagon - whatever that phrase is - it's ok. This isn't school. You're not being graded. Try again next week. Example: I started Wednesday on my one week without Coke. But I had some Friday. What could I do? It was 94 degrees, I was walking the annual Hillsville Flea Market and it was thrust at me. And it was good :) But I'm starting over today, and have been good. So far. Or if you give it a shot and find it's too hard, give up (it's not worth being miserable over) and pick something else.

Giving up something for one week won't save that much money, so what's the point? The point is maybe you'll find that living without that one thing for one week wasn't that bad and maybe it can grow into 2 weeks. And maybe you'll be energized by the extra dollars not leaving your bank account and want to make it permanent. Or at least less frequent. Good luck :)

"Are you crying? There's no crying! There's no crying in baseball!" ~ A League of Their Own

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Things You Should ALWAYS Spend More For

"I like being on vacation better than going to work." That's what the hubby said this morning when he got out of bed. I think the very worst part about going on vacation is the day you have to go back to work. Maybe that's dramatic. But for a little while, you haven't had to cook, or clean up the table, or unload the dishwasher, or make your bed. You get to play and eat out and do whatever you want and now all of a sudden it comes to a screeching halt and you have to get up at 6 o'clock, dress up, and face an email inbox 4x as full as normal. Blech.

I had originally planned to blog this week about how great my yard sale was, or how to have a great vacation on the cheap, but circumstances call for an extreme shift. I have learned some very valuable lessons in the past few days and I want to talk about things not worth pinching pennies over. What's that you say? This is a money-saving blog! Right you are. But sometimes it's a better value to spend more and get more than to spend less and get crap. Here goes:

#1. Spend more on hotels. Hmmm. How did I figure this one out, I wonder? I recently returned from Gatlinburg, TN where I got a really good deal on a hotel room - $47.84 per night - woah! That's right, woah! But it should have been my first clue. I went on price alone and totally neglected to read reviews. Bad Jennie! Had I read the reviews I would have spared myself learning first-hand that the place was filthy, the breakfast pitiful and the customer service non-existent. And get this - first night the toilet clogs at 2:00am (emphasis on the "A.M."). There is no plunger to be found on the entire premesis, so the hubby and I get in the car and drive about 10 miles or so until we can find an open Walgreen's (Sevier County TN ain't New York City - it is a challenge to find anything open). Although I will say, it was kind of adventurous to be out and about Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge at that hour - there were maybe 5 other vehicles out - and they were all police cars (probably wondering what trouble we were into - "...just need a plunger, sir"). The next day we tell the management, who says "We have a plunger, I don't know why the girl couldn't find it." Um, not the point. "She should have offered you another room." But she didn't. He finally sighs and rolls his eyes (very dramatically) and promises to tell the manager. Wait, I thought he was the manager - guess nobody wants to claim that job around here. Needless to say the issue was never resolved. I filed a complaint with the corporate headquarters and the manager emailed me today and offered 20% off my next stay. Gee, that was generous. They obviously don't get it, since I don't plan to stay there ever again. So you don't make the same mistake I did, I won't give you their full name, but their initials are Days Inn.

#2. Shoes. I used to buy cheap shoes. Payless was the best. But then I developed knee problems overdoing it on the treadmill. The treadmill? Yes, it's lame I know, but I could turn on Prison Break and walk for a full episode - which ended up killing my knees. I spent lots of mulah on doctors and physical therapists, when all I needed was a supportive shoe. Bought some Danskos and some inserts for my tennies and haven't had knee problems since. Plus - I think it's a wash anyway. Danskos and Chacos and Nikes are expensive, but you don't have to buy them that often - Danskos especially last FOREVAH. Cheap shoes have to be replaced regularly if you wear them at all. Just a theory.

#3. Bread. On some things, it makes no difference whether you buy the store brand or the pricey advertised brand. Ketchup is ketchup, whether Hunt's or Great Value. On the other hand, some things there are no substitutes for. About a year and a half ago Nature's Own kept raising the price on their bread. I'll show them - I'll just stop buying it. I tried other brands including the store brand - ew. Sometimes it's just worth it to pay more for something that tastes that much better. So now, I bite the bullet and buy my loaf of Honey Wheat Nature's Own, and don't feel one iota of guilt. This also applies to cevars (pronounced "see-vars" - my cousin's way of saying cereal when he was a little tyke). Contrary to the advice in the tightwad and cheapskate books out there, Tastey Oats are not as good (or even as close) as Cheerios and Toaster Pastries are no match for Pop-Tarts. Use a coupon.

#4. High Speed Internet. Once you've left that crazy dial tone and the "You've got mail" greeting for the rush of instant internet, you'll never go back. Doesn't matter that they raise the price a couple of dollars every 4-5 months when they think we're not looking - it's so worth it. People preach against the "gotta have it now" society we live in, but for internet - delayed gratification is not the way to go. Time is money and around here we use the internet for everything. Selling things on the bay, emailing family, catching up with friends on facebook, checking the weather, searching for new cars or deals on Christmas presents, taking classes, ordering photos, watching pointless YouTube videos (Charlie bit my finger, anyone?), catching up missed episodes of our latest TV addiction... If we had dial up, we'd never leave the house trying to get all of that done.

#5. Experiences. I think tickets to events are the neatest presents to give. They don't add to the clutter in your house, they're super-easy to wrap and fit under a tree and/or hide, and they can create some really cool memories. This past Christmas I bought tickets for the hubby to see Jerry Seinfeld. I managed to snag second row seats, but those tickets were ree-diculously expensive - "not that there's anything wrong with that". But it something we had never done before and was one of the funnest date nights we've ever had. And now whenever I see a drug commercial, I think "Great, something else I have to remember to ask my doctor about."

#6. Coach handbags. When I was about 10 years old I was in the Barrel (aka "Cracker Barrel") gift shop with my parental units. I wanted a Mad Libs - remember those? Yes, I was a dorky little kid, but who wasn't? They kept saying no and at one point I remember saying "But it will make me happy!" No. Ok, so later in the truck they tried to teach me the spiritual lesson that "things don't make us happy." And then they gave me the Mad Libs. Spoiled much? ;) Fast forward to present day. While in TN, we went to the outlets. They had a Coach store there and I just had to go inside. I was a good girl and went in, walked around, drooled and left. We went to all the other stores and at the end of the day I asked the hubby - "Do you think it would be crazy if I bought one of those bags?" He really didn't get it but was really cool about it. He's never been one of those husbands who says "You spent how much?!" I'm the tightwad in this relationship. Surprised? So we went back to Coach and I got a purse off of the clearance table - 70% off. However, 70% off really expensive makes it just regularly expensive. I mean no disrespect, but I think it does make me happy. I look at it and get warm fuzzies.

"Oh, Sammy's so confused he don't know whether to scratch his watch or wind his butt." ~Dolly Parton as Truvy in Steel Magnolias

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

How to Have a Yard Sale: Part II

Weathermen are stupid. Ok, that's harsh. But I planned my glorious yard sale for this past Saturday (although in my previous blog I said Friday - sorry 'bout that). I watched the forecasts all week. Late Wednesday there's just a chance of afternoon thunderstorms/showers for Saturday, so I go ahead and pay the newspaper to run my ad. I get up Saturday at 6:00am, get dressed, put on my sun-block, open the door and...it's a deluge. Are you kidding me? Seriously?! Grr.

I go back inside, check weather.com and not to worry, it will stop soon. Right. At 8am it's still coming down and I haven't put out any of my merchandise. But I'm cold and wet (having gone ahead and set up the tables in the tropical rainforest) and I'm sitting on the porch swing watching cars come by still looking for my yard sale. ::sniffle:: This is so painful to watch.

So now I'm really depressed. I wish with all of my heart that I could be one of those people that goes with the flow, can be flexible and Ok when things don't work out. But I get so excited about things (especially yard sales) that when the weather doesn't cooperate, or at Christmas I don’t get the Reeboks that make your butt look good, or none of your "homies" show up to the 10-yr high school reunion, I get really disappointed.

I’m on the rebound now, though, and plan to have my yard sale this Sat. come what may. In the spirit of getting psyched up about it again, here are some more tips for having a successful venture.

1. Get started with setting your stuff out early enough so that when your advertised start time rolls around, you’re not scurrying around pulling things out of boxes and running back and forth from the house dragging things out. Get up early – get started early – and when people come before 8 or 7 or whenever you wanted to start, it’s OK. Welcome them with open arms because “early birds” know that you’re not officially open and they’re less likely to haggle and more likely to pay full price for stuff. You should feel honored that they chose to come to your sale first and that you’re on their list at all. Early birds are die-hard yard-salers, so do not turn them away. I hate the newspaper ads that say NO EARLY BIRDS! Why would you turn away a customer? My craigslist ad actually said “early birds welcome.” Cha-ching!

2. Just like in a retail store, how you display your merch matters. Use tables if you can. Card tables, picnic tables, borrowed tables from work or the church, large boxes turned upside down – whatever. Get your stuff out of boxes and onto the tables. Only die-hards like me will dig in boxes. Let me just say – digging in boxes is often worth it. Once, whilst digging in a box, I found a doll for $1. Turned out, it was a vintage Vogue doll that sold for $150 on the bay (aka eBay). Sometimes it’s worth it to dig. Just don’t make your customers do it.

3. If you have clothes, hang them up, if possible. Or at the very least, fold them and put them on a table and organize them – all men’s clothes together, all teen girls, all kids, all baby, etc. Again, don’t put them in a box for people to dig through. Yuk.

4. The stuffed animals NO-NO: Do not put stuffed animals in a pile on a tarp. You may have a house cleaner than my mother-in-law’s (although I doubt it), but if your stuffed toys are on a pile on the ground, it gives the impression that they have fleas. At the very least put them in a box or plastic tub, but better yet get them out and put them on a table. If you have nicer stuffed items – like Boyds bears or hand-made crafts – separate them out from the cheapo toys and put them with the home d├ęcor stuff.

5. Group like things together. Put all the tools together, all the videos/DVD’s together, sporting equipment, baby stuff, kitchen stuff, clothes, books, jewelry, etc. A lot of times, people are looking for something in particular when they come to a yard sale – especially the die-hards. If things are grouped, they’ll spot their item immediately – don’t make them wade through everything to find their treasure. They probably won’t - and you’ll lose a sale. While I was putting up my “Rain Date” sign I had 2 cars drive by. One asked me – got any fishing poles? No. Any records? No. Any jewelry? No. Any tools? No. But come back next week – all my stuff is cheap! The other car asked if I had any movies. See? People are looking for particular treasures.

"What is that? What is that? What are you doing? You're taking all the caviar? That caviar is a *garnish*!" ~You've Got Mail

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

How to Have a Yard Sale: Part 1

Yard sales are THE BEST!! From a buyer's perspective - you will never find a better deal than at a yard sale. I've managed to find an Ann Taylor sweater for $2 (I get compliments every time I wear it), Claire V. and Vera Bradley hand bags for $1-$5, and Christian fiction books for $0.25/each - score! You can also find necessities. One Saturday morning before my weekly yard sale adventure, my blow dryer started spitting sparks at me - yikes. So I kept an eye out and found one at a church sale that day for $0.50. It would have cost me at least $20 at Wal-Mart. And I like it better than my old one.

I could go on forever -but I won't. This weekend I'm having my own yard sale and it inspired me for this blog. It's a great way to earn some money and get rid of your stuff. Some people think it's not worth the effort, but let's think about this. You drag stuff (that you don't want) out to your front yard, people come by and PAY YOU to haul it away for you. How is that not awesome?

Having been to so many I have seen that there is very clearly a right and wrong way to conduct a yard sale.

1. Price everything. I have a few theories as to why people don't price their "merchandise". a. They're lazy, b. they don't have time (and I get that, really I do), or c. they think if they don't price it, maybe you'll offer them more than they want for it. Riiiiight. That will never, ever happen, so just go ahead and price EVERYTHING. Yes, it takes time, but it will save you from having to figure out how much you want for something 100x over the course of your sale when somebody yells "How much ya want for this?!" Most of the time, if someone doesn't have their stuff priced, I won't even bother asking how much they want for it because I assume they want a ton. They may only want $1 for that box of sparkly antique Christmas balls, but I'll never know and they'll end up taking it back into the house with them.

Oh, and by the way, when you ask someone how much they want for something, for every second they pause, the price is going up in their head. Me: "How much do you want for this picture frame?" Them: "Um... (tick, tick, tick)...$6" Is she crazy?! Me: "Thanks." Put the frame down, moving on...

2. When someone says "Will you take $2 (or whatever price) for this set of Garfield mugs (or whatever treasure)?" your answer should always be an enthusiastic "YES!". The point of a yard sale is to get rid of your unwanted stuff - not to make money. Making money is the bonus. If you turn down offers, you may not get another and you'll end up taking your stuff back in your house where it serves no purpose but to add to the clutter. Repeat after me: "Anything is better than zero."

Females especially are prone to saying things like, "I couldn't possibly take less than $10 for that." Sure you can! If you don't, you'll be taking it right back inside with you at the end of the day. Just sayin'.

3. Most of your stuff should be in the $2 and under range. What? Are you serious? But I paid $55 for that sweater. Um, I don't care and neither does anyone else. Do you know how many times I've heard, Me: "You want $55 for these Harley Davidson boots?", Him: "Well they cost me $150.00 new." Yep, again, I don't care. This is a yard sale. If you want big prices for your name brand stuff, you need to take the time and effort to put it on eBay or Craigslist or some other venue other than a yard sale. By the way - Harley Davidson stuff does extremely well on eBay - as well as a whole bunch of other stuff that I'll share in another blog someday.

4. If you have some things you can get a little more for - like CD/DVD players, almost new lawn chairs, furniture, foot spas, etc., price them at odd numbers. For example, I had a tv with a VHS player that I wanted $15 for. I put $17 on it, so someone could offer me $15. They would feel like they got a deal, I would get what I wanted. Some teenager came by and bought it to play video games on - and paid me the full $17 - very cool.

5. If you're one of those people who thinks this is too much work, here's a tip: You can find little round stickers, specifically made for yard sales, at Dollar Tree or pretty much any office supply store. And they already have the prices on them! Divide your stuff into piles - the fifty cent pile (not the rapper), the $1 pile, etc. and have your kiddos price everything. Kids love to sticker things :) See, this is getting easier by the minute.

6. Always have a "cause". It will help motivate you when you don't feel like messing with it. For example, the yard sale I'm having Friday is to raise money to spend at the outlets on vacation. Previous causes have been - landscape stuff for the yard, highlights for my hair, etc. Yes, the "cause" is usually me. But we're on a budget remember? So having a "cause" makes the yard sale more fun, knowing it's going toward something fun, and it keeps me from steering off budget for the little extras.

This is just the beginning: Part II to come soon. :)

"I like her. She talks about things. We never talk about things" ~Sense & Sensability

Friday, August 6, 2010

Movies and TV on the Cheap

Some people may preach that watching too much TV is bad for you. Waste of time, damages brain cells, anti-social. I guess it can be if you're watching reality shows on MTV. However, watching TV and movies is one my favorite ways to spend time with the hubby. For the most part we have the same taste in entertainment and are addicted to shows like Grey's Anatomy, Glee, House, The Office, Parks and Rec, Dark Blue - can't wait to see what the new fall season brings that we can get hooked on.

Anyway, if you're on a budget, entertainment is probably one of the easiest ways to be cheap.

  • 1. My #1 trick is to buy tv series on DVD from ebay, amazon or half.com, watch them, and resell them online. This does not work with regular movies - only with TV series on DVD. Pick a show you've never seen, but have heard good things about. Buy season 1, watch it, sell it, buy season 2, watch it, sell it...you get the idea. Example: I bought Boston Legal season 4 on ebay for 19.94 (including shipping), watched it, and sold it for 21.99 (including shipping). Didn't make any money, but covered my eBay and Paypal fees. Not too shabby. (ps - for those of you who think selling on eBay is a pain, for DVD's, books, and CDs, just enter the title or ISBN # and eBay fills in all of the info - including a picture)

  • 2. Two birds, one stone. This tip is somewhat related - and keep in mind it only works with certain people. But, you can buy a dvd series or movie (used) online, watch it, and then give it as a gift. Again, please note, this only works for certain people - close family members and friends that honestly don't care. I wouldn't try it on a boss or in-law or someone you need to impress (i.e., a date). Real life example: I bought a season of 24 for my dad's birthday. We hadn't finished watching it before the big day, so I took out the DVD's we still needed - tacky, yes, but it provided a good laugh, and I knew he wouldn't mind. Just remember to use commen sense when employing this tip.

  • 3. Buy used at yard sales. If you follow this blog at all you will come to learn that I'm BIG on yardsales. You can find just about anything at a yard sale and it's always discounted about 90-98% off retail value. This is especially true of DVD's. Found CSI season 1 for $3, watched it, gave it to my cousin when he was laid up with a broken leg. Bought Gilmore Girls season 1 for $5, watched 5 episodes, couldn't get into it, sold it for $20. Grey's Anatomy was $0.50 at a yard sale, watched it, LOVED IT, sold it for $10. My personal rule of thumb - don't pay more than $5 for a set of DVD's or more than $3 for a movie - unless you're just dying to see it.

  • 4. You can get movies at the library for free. (Yay! Free is good!) Just remember to return it on time - those late fees will get you. Take it from someone who knows.

  • 5. Sometimes, Netflix is worth it. I have a buddy, let's just call her Stephanie, who pays the $14/mo subscription fee to get 2 movies at a time from Netflix. She'll watch about 8-12 movies/month - that's $1.17-$1.75 per movie (I used a calculator). The secret to any subscription (magazine, gym membership, salad bar, etc.) is you've got to "hurt them", as my dad would say. Use it to death!

  • 6. Redbox. I've never used this, but at $1/night, that's not a bad deal - you can find that in the cup holder in the car, right? Just remember to take it back the next day or they'll keep charging you - ouch.

  • 7. Trade with family and friends - my tips keep getting shorter - I have nothing else to say.

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. ~Pride and Prejudice

Friday, July 30, 2010

Money Help for the Rest of Us

I love to read. All sorts of things. Christian fiction - historical (Deanne Gist, Lori Wick), suspense (Ted Dekker, Dee Henderson)- and autobiograhpies, devotionals (Max Lucado), books about finding your passion and reaching your potential. I also like to read books about money. Books on budgeting, money management, how to save, how to make more. The more I delve into it, the more I realize, there are TONS of books out there on money. Everyone has an opinion and everyone is an expert.

I tend to be in the middle of several books at a time. I'll pick up one, based on the mood I'm in. Right now, I'm in between 2 books on money and they're both very extreme. One is about a group of mid to late twenty-something girls offering advice and tips. One of the tips is - paint your own toes between pedicures. Are they serious?! Another is - try on designer jeans at the mall and then find them cheaper online. One girl did this and found 3 pair for a total of $200, much less than one pair purchased at full retail value. Are you kidding me? Who lives like this? A stereotype has just entered my head, but I'm trying very hard not to judge.

It's just that this is not money advice for the normal person. Don't know about you, but at my house, we're covering the necessities (mortgage, utilities, food, auto), but there's not much left over for extras.

The other book is full of advice on how to live for less. Some of the suggestions are use cloth napkins and diapers instead of disposable. I have nothing against "green" people, but to do this purely from a money standpoint doesn't really seem worth it. Another tip is cut holes in the top of an old plastic film (remember film?) canister and use it as a salt and pepper shaker. Um, there has to be a better way. And third (but not even close to finally), grow your own garden. Ok, sure, let's just save money by not eating because that's what would happen for me.

The point is, there has to be happy medium. That's all I'm after. There are a million books out there about money and I've read a bunch and plan to read more. This little blog is just meant to be a place average people can hopefully find helpful money saving tips, advice, and hints, from another average person, trying to make it in this economy on a very average (or maybe even below) income.