Saturday, October 26, 2013

Make Money by Selling Your Old Stuff

Lately my dad and I have been cleaning the house and finding tons of old things that we don't use anymore or never really needed in the first place.  Some of them are even still in the original packaging!  And I know we aren't the only people that have things lying around that we don't need anymore.  But instead of throwing it away, sell it!  And I'm talking about every little thing.  Somebody out there wants it.  You should see the types of things that sell on ebay, even used gift cards with no balance left (I guess people collect them, but that's weird to me).

But how should you sell your things?  Well there are several options and that all depends on what you are trying to sell, how many things you are trying to sell, how much you want to get for it, and what your own selling preferences are.  Here's a list of some of the ways to sell things, what it's best for, and the pros and cons.

Garage Sale
Garage SaleNow this is not one that I have experience with but obviously most people now what a garage sale is and how it works.  You have to be willing to part with items for very cheap, but if you have a lot of things to sell, it can be worth it.  Make sure you set up early because that's when the real shoppers come out.  And also it pays to advertise (yes that means you might have to invest some money into advertising but it will attract a lot more people and get you more money in the end).

What it's best for: Selling large volumes of things.  
Pros: You can sell a lot of your things quickly
Cons: You have to give up your Saturday or Sunday.  You have to pay for advertising.

Sell on EbayEbay
This is what I use most often.  Take a look at all the things I'm selling:  Now ebay's not for everyone.  It takes a lot of practice learning how to get your items noticed, learning how much to charge for everything, etc.  But I've been doing it for many years and like it because it just takes a little time to set up and then I just have to wait.  Do all those things sell right away?  Certainly not.  I've had to relist things many times but eventually it sells (like I said, somebody out there wants it).  You get 50 free listings a month.  I only sell small items on here because I'm nervous about pricing the shipping for large items.  If there are a lot of similar items for sale, I make sure mine is the lowest price at least by a few cents.  This gets it more noticed since most people put them in order by price and usually that will start a bidding war that will drive up the price by the end of the selling period.  I may do a more in-depth look at how to sell on ebay later but this is just an overview.

What it's best for: Selling small items
Pros: Once you get the hang of it, it's really simple.  You're in control of prices.
Cons: You can lose money if you don't plan correctly.  Sometimes you have to deal with annoying people.

Amazon Listing
sell on AmazonI listed my first things on Amazon a couple months ago and still haven't sold them so it's a learning process.  Take a look: My Amazon Listings.  Why I chose to list these on Amazon?  Apparently they're worth a lot of money and they're my guinea pigs.  So far, I'm not liking it because it's taking so long to sell.  But it might be worth the more money I will get than the price I would have listed it on ebay.  There are a lot of restrictions and rules on Amazon as to what you can and cannot sell as an individual and it has to sell for quite a few dollars to be worth it, unlike ebay which you can make money by selling things cheaply.

What it's best for: Selling things that are worth a lot.
Pros: Amazon gives you the price for shipping which should definitely cover it.  Large base of customers that trust this site more than one like ebay.
Cons: Can take a long time to sell.  Fees are more expensive than on ebay.

Sell to Amazon
Ever look at an item on Amazon and it said, "Sell Us Your Item"?  For certain items (I've generally seen it for electronics), Amazon wants to buy them from you to resell.  You only get Amazon credit not cash but it is quick and easy and they pay for shipping.  Generally you can get more money by selling it yourself, but it is easier.
What it's best for: Selling things quickly.
Pros: Quick and easy and hassle-free.  Don't have to deal with buyers.
Cons: They give you far less than it's worth.

Other places to sell things:
  • Used movie, CD, book, and game stores often buy your old media.  Only worth it if you have a lot of items because they just give you around $1 or less per item (Check out Rasputin in the Bay Area)
  • For books, especially textbooks, check out book buyback sites.  It's instantaneous and they pay for shipping. compiles a list of places for you.
  • For furniture, try antique stores and used furniture stores.  They buy items too.
  • For jewelery, if the piece is unique then go to antique stores.  If it's generic, you're probably better off selling it to places that buy for the gold or silver and gemstones.  Make sure you shop around though.
  • For large items, Craigslist.  Good old craigslist.  Be cautious on this site, but it's great for things like large furniture, bikes, cars, etc. that have to be sold locally.

 Taking the time to clean stuff out and sell it can make you quite a few extra dollars.  Let me know of any other ways you like to sell your old stuff or any areas you might like me to explore further.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Sign Up For Those Reward Programs . . . It Can't Hurt!

A couple days ago I stopped off at CVS Pharmacy quickly for one item.  At the checkout, the clerk asked if I had a CVS card.  I do have one and usually have it ready to go but I was in a hurry and only had one item that I knew didn't have a reduced price and I would have to dig through my purse to find it.  I did get it out, though frustratingly, and low and behold under my receipt printed out 6 coupons. (A couple of which I plan on using.  But be wise of using coupons.  See my post Coupons: Use Wisely)

So my tip for the day is, sign up for any of these programs.  Most stores offer them and it doesn't just mean coupons, it usually means extra savings right off the normal price.  Why people don't bother with these things is beyond me . . . IT'S FREE SAVINGS.  All you have to do is fill out a simple form.  And if you don't like carrying cards around, they have little versions for your key-chain which is handy, but if even that annoys you, most places can just type in your phone number associated with the account.  (Oh and by free I mean you should never be paying anything to sign up for a rewards program.  Those are not worth it.)

Some of My Favorites:
1. Safeway - Tons of savings right off the price.  No card, you type in your phone number on the key pad.  Look up their coupons online before shopping (or on your smartphone while in the store) and digitally add them to your card.

2. CVS - Tons and tons of coupons.  They have a coupon booth where you scan your card and it prints out coupons.  Savings on prices.  More coupons at checkout, as mentioned above.

3. Petco - Both Petco and Petsmart have these programs but why I like Petco's better is you get a free $5 coupon after $100 spent there.  With no buying restrictions, meaning you can buy a $5 bag of cat food, or dog food for those of you, and get it for free -- you don't have to spend a certain amount.
*Tip: I don't usually buy pet food at an actual pet store because they hike up the prices more than a regular grocery store and it's easier to just get it at the grocery store anyway.  But when I get my $5 coupon, that's what I usually get because it's generally right around that price and I can basically get a free bag of food.

rewards cards

What are your favorites?

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Learning About Your Credit Score and Ways to Make it Better (Or Establish It!)

So today's post isn't really about saving or making money per se, but it is an important topic when talking about finances that I think many people have misconceptions about and that's your credit score.

What is your credit score?  Put simply, it shows how worthy you are of borrowing money.  Meaning, the higher your credit score, the more people are willing to lend you because you have a good history of paying back money you borrowed.

Credit ScoreI think the biggest mistake made when concerning credit, is not establishing any.  Many people are afraid of credit cards or taking out loans because they are afraid they will go into debt.  It's smart not to try and buy things that you cannot afford, but it is not smart to be afraid of using credit as long as you use it wisely.  It's important to establish credit as soon as you can so you can build a long history of good credit.  Why is this important?  Because when the time comes in your life to be making a big purchase that you have to have a loan for, like a house, you have to have credit established to not only get a loan but to get a good one with better rates.

So how do you establish credit?  There are two big ways to establish credit: through credit cards and through loans.

Credit Cards
I have already talked about using credit cards to your advantage to make money, see Make Money With Credit Cards, and I briefly talked how to manage credit cards so they don't lower your credit score -- that is . . . . paying off your bill every month!  As I said in that blog, don't be afraid of credit cards.  As long as you spend with it just like you would a debit card, only buy what you actually have money to pay for, you shouldn't run into any problems paying your bill.  And paying your bill in full on time means paying no interest or fees.

Paying your bill also means helping your credit score.  As long as you keep paying your bill, your credit score will go up.  This also increases the amount of money you are able to "borrow" each day from the credit card company.  Like I said, the more you pay off, the more you can borrow on credit.

An important thing to note, if you have multiple credit cards open that's fine!  DON'T EVER CLOSE A CREDIT CARD ACCOUNT!  This affects your score negatively.  Many people after going into debt and then eventually paying it off, want to close their accounts so their not tempted to use it anymore.  DON'T.  Cut up your card and don't use it, but keep the account open.  Why?  Because an open account, even if the bill is $0, you pay $0, you are paying off your bill.  That helps your credit score.  Closing an account even if you always paid your bills on time will negatively affect your credit score because banks and such see that as a cry for help, that you do not have money to pay things off.  So even if you want to open a credit card account and not use it, it could still help your credit score, though very slightly.

The other way to establish credit is through loans.  I remember my economics teacher in high school saying, never get a loan to buy a car, you should have enough money to pay it off right away.  That always stuck with me but now I see that getting loans is important to establishing credit, though there is still truth in what he said.  It's important to understand when you should be getting a loan to help your credit and when you should be getting a loan just because it's a big purchase and you have to have a loan.

What do I mean by this?  Well take the car example he used.  The idea that you should have enough money to pay for the car is still true.  It does not make sense to purchase a car that you cannot afford even though you can get a loan which makes it easier to buy.  Why?  Well first of all, in the scheme of all things in life, purchasing a car is a relatively small purchase compared to other things like education, houses, property, etc.  Second of all (and something more people will take to heart), cars depreciate in value where as most other things you need loans for increase in value -- houses and property if well taken care of and improved over time increase in value and even investing in an education means that you will be able to make more money in the future.

So why do I believe now that you should possibly still get a loan?  Well, just like credit cards, you can get a loan just to establish credit even if you have all the money to pay it off (as you should).  You can pay off the loan in full and not have to deal with interest.  It's just like paying for it with cash or a check, but you help your credit score while you're at it.  This can also be done with smaller large purchases (that sounds strange) like an engagement ring or other vehicles.

Really the only types of loans that you shouldn't be able to pay off right away or shortly after are: education, housing, and property loans.  Obviously these are are in the tens and hundreds of thousands (or millions) of dollars and most people cannot afford to pay for that right away, and rightfully so!  But to be able to get a loan for these things, you need to already have credit!

Important tips about loans:
1. If you can pay more than your monthly payment, do it.  Just because you have a loan for 30 years doesn't mean you have to take that long to pay it off.  The sooner you pay it off, the less interest you have to pay!
2. Don't get behind on payments, not only does that hurt your credit score, but the interest and fees that accumulate become insanely hard to pay off.  That's how people go into extreme debt.  If your financial situation changes, talk to the bank or company that has your loan and discuss different options.  Especially with long-term loans, there is generally a solution that both parties can agree upon that doesn't hurt you as much.

If you feel there's anything I forgot or if there's still something you don't understand, feel free to comment below!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

For Halloween Save Money: Make Your Own Costume

Since this is the first post in October, I thought I would do a special one about Halloween costumes.  I love dressing up for Halloween, and one of my favorite parts is coming up with a unique costume.  I NEVER buy pre-made Halloween costumes.  They are terrible.  Here's why.

Halloween Costumes

Reasons to Not Buy Pre-made Halloween Costumes:
1. They are too expensive.  Not only is it ridiculous to spend $60+ on a costume for one day, they aren't even close to being worth that.  They are cheaply made and look cheaply made.  Continuing on that thought:
2. The fabric used is horrible.  As stated before, they are cheaply made.  Not only is the fabric they use horrible looking (often it's that shiny material like little girls' nightgowns) but it is so thin, it can easily rip.  It just looks bad.
3. You may have the same exact costume as somebody else.  Making your own costume means nobody else will have your costume.  You may be the same character as somebody else, but chances are, yours will be more unique because you made it.  People generally think it looks cooler too, even if it isn't the best looking.
Sexy Halloween Costumes4. For women, they are overtly sexualized which is not necessary.  If you want to dress up slutty on Halloween, fine that's your choice but at least look nicer doing it and still make your own costume.  And guess what?  Most guys thing it's cooler if you make a costume that looks like the actual character.  Cause most guys are nerds and appreciate that kind of thing.  Just saying.

Of course, there are exceptions.  Some REALLY expensive costumes are very nicely made.  This can be worth it if you plan to wear it multiple times.  Also, if you want to wear one of those joke costumes, I guess the quality of the look doesn't really matter but it still seems bad to pay so much for that.  I would suggest in that case to look online for cheaper options for whatever costume you want.

As I said, I really like making my own costumes.  If you don't think that they can look good, here are some examples of my own costumes in the past few years:
So how do you go about finding the pieces of your costume?  Well, I like to start at the thrift store.  You can find some great pieces for costumes, sometimes you can even find wonderful already made costumes.  Sometimes I go in knowing who I want to be and have specific things in mind, sometimes I go and see what there is and get inspiration from what I see.  And as big of an online shopper as I am, it can be hard to tell online exactly what you will be getting.

That being said, if there is a specific piece that I know will be difficult to find, I look online and I start looking early.  My biggest and best friend for these kinds of things is ebay.  You can find really unique items at great deals.

For example, this year I want to be Carmen Sandiego.  Funny right?  Cause my name is Carmen.  (I used to hear the theme song a lot as a kid when the show was really popular.  I hated it, but now it's a bit nostalgic).  I'm going to reuse the coat you see that I used for Cruella de Vil (Which I found at a thrift store for under $10.  I just tacked down the dalmatian fur so I could remove it later).  Most of the rest of the costume is really simple, but her standout piece is her hat.  That needs to be perfect and it's also hard to find, so I've been searching ebay regularly to find something.

What are you going to be for Halloween this year?

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Most Underrated Source for Free Entertainment: THE LIBRARY

Today I am going to talk about how to save money while keeping yourself entertained . . . . for free . . . the library.  People seem to have forgotten about this gem, they think a library only has books.  Wrong.  Libraries are stocked with all kinds of cool and fun things other than books: movies (yes, they are up to date and have current DVD's for you to rent), CD's, and many libraries have digital versions of books for you to download for those who like to read electronically.

Why more people don't take advantage of these free things, I'll never know.  Go and check your library out and see what they have.  And if you live in a well populated area, most libraries are linked in a certain area (by county, generally) and you can borrow items from any of these libraries, and even have them sent to a certain one for you to pick up.  Usually you can do all your searching online on their website, and then choose what library you want to pick it up at, and you will get an email when it is ready to be picked up.  Pretty cool huh?

Now I know most of you are thinking, CD's?  Why would I want CD's?  Now I'm not going to go and tell you to do anything specific, but let's just say I haven't purchased music in a long time but I have thousands of songs on my iTunes and even all the latest hits.  Cough cough.

Another plus to renting from the library (other than it being free): Usually you get to keep the item for longer than any other rental store (like those even exist anymore).

Really the only downside, sometimes you get pretty damaged discs, so damaged that they are unwatchable (or unlistenable).  It sucks, but let your librarian know when you return it.  Usually there's another copy you can get or they'll replace the bad one.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Coupons: Use Wisely

This week's post is about coupons.  Now this is NOT going to tell you how to save $30,000 a year with extreme couponing, I do not have the patience to do that though it can be done.  There are plenty of websites that will teach you how to do that if you are interested and have the time (Key phrase: If you have the time.  It's basically a full time job if you want to save thousands).  This is just a few pointers to remember when using coupons.
Coupons are great, it's free savings.  I always hated as a kid that my mom never looked through all the coupons that came with the Sunday paper just to see if there was one for something we use.  Why not right?  Many people just don't want to take the time, and I don't blame them.  Good news is, it's a little easier today with electronic versions of things.  You can search for coupons for specific goods or companies online or you can sign up for electronic coupons for specific stores that are loaded onto a card.  But again, I'm not going to go into detail on that.

THE NUMBER ONE MISTAKE PEOPLE MAKE WITH COUPONS IS . . . BUYING THINGS THEY DON'T NEED.  The PROBLEM with coupons are, when you see them, you feel like you have to take advantage of the sale.  You don't usually buy that item but you should get it because it's a $1.00 off.  Then it ends up sitting in your pantry unopened until you feel you HAVE to use it.

Similarly, people also sometimes just end up spending MORE than they would without the coupon.  You get a coupon in the mail from Macy's that say's you get $10 off (when you spend $50 or more).  That's great if you were needing some new clothes or something for the kitchen, but make sure you don't end up spending more than you normally would without the coupon, just to get a deal.  That just doesn't make sense.

Other things to watch out for:
  • Expiration date
  • Size limits
  • Certain stores have different policies, they may not accept some coupons and that's their right
  • Any other restrictions

Any tips you have?

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Traveling Cheaply, Part 2: Hostels

In my second post about traveling cheaply, prompted by my trip to New York last weekend I'm going to give you a little hint about saving money in your lodging.  It's a hidden secret to many Americans . . . hostels.

Now don't turn up your nose and say, "Eww hostels" and leave this page.  That is part of the problem.  I'm going to debunk a lot of the myths involved with this touchy subject.  Hostels are a great way to save money in a big city where hotel prices can be out the roof!  (Obviously, this is only meant for large cities that have hostels, most smaller areas won't have the option.)

Yest hostels usually mean a much smaller room and sometimes a shared bathroom, but it's worth it with the money you save.  Besides, if you're visiting a big city, generally you are going to be sightseeing and not there for relaxation so you should really only be in your hotel to sleep and all you need for that is a bed!

Myths About Hostels Debunked

1. You have to sleep in a dorm with lots of other people you don't know.  This is probably the biggest myth about hostels.  At one point, they may have only come in dorm style rooms and they certainly still have the option for super cheap, but hostels now also understand that most people want some privacy and do offer private rooms and sometimes even private bathrooms as well.

Hostel NYC2. Hostels are dirty.  Not true for all places.  Just like hotels and motels, there are going to be a few places that aren't up to par, but that's what doing your online research is for and reading reviews.  Let me tell you that there are a lot of hostels that are clean and not only that, but they have been fully modernized and look totally chic.  Here's a place that my mom and I have stayed at before in NY.
Hostel NYC

 3. Only foreigners stay in hostels.  While incredibly rude, also not true.  Lots of Americans stay in American hostels.  It's just for those looking for a cheaper alternative to hotels so they can spend their money on activities and such in the place they are visiting!

4. Hostels aren't safe.  Many hostels either you have to have a key to enter or they have private security.  Most are just as safe as any hotel.  Just make sure you do your research and look at reviews.

Perks About Hostels

1. You're right near the action!  Many hostels are downtown or near the hotspots of a particular city.  To find a cheaper option in a hotel, you generally have to look on the outskirts of cities.  Not only does this mean it takes longer to get to wherever you want to go, it may mean added costs like a rental car or taxi.  That's not necessary with most hostels.

2. Fun events.  Because of the community feel in hostels, a lot offer fun activities within their walls like games and movies but many also offer fun things to do in the city.  These can be anything from museum trips to pub crawls.  Going in a group like this makes it cheaper and easier since you don't have to do the planning!  I've really wanted to take a trip down to San Diego to stay at this one hostel, USA Hostels San Diego, just because they offer a trip to Tijuana.  For just $18 you get: dinner, a guided tour of all the shopping and action that has made Tijuana world famous, a tequila tasting and, of course, hit a few of the best bars on the Avenida de la RevoluciĆ³n.  While being an American and traveling between the U.S. and Mexico should be simple, this just eliminates any troubles crossing the border and being with a group makes it much safer.

Let me know what you think about this.  If you have any places you've stayed and want to recommend go ahead.  As with anything, the internet is your best friend.  Do your research.  Read reviews (but take them with a grain of salt because some people are way too picky).  Find the place that suits you best.