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