Monday, June 30, 2008

Moving Day!

Today I am moving. At noon the movers will be coming by to pick up my heavy stuff and bring it over to the house. This is what it is all about - this is the big step. It is far, far more house than one single woman needs, and yet, here we are.

Divorce is hard, painful and emotional. Like many things in life, you can't imagine what it is like until you go through it. It is bad enough dividing up a relationship, what no one prepares you for is what it will be like to divide up your life.

For a long time I have been focused on how much I didn't want to live in this house. Who am I kidding? I still don't. But I have discovered something through this blog - when you stop spending your time and energy worrying about what might happen and focus instead on how to take control and make it work for you - things begin to happen. You begin to feel strong, powerful, focused, brave - instead of tired, scared and frustrated. I've thought over and over that I am not here by choice, but in fact, I am. There are other options - I could be buried with my face in the sand, waiting for foreclosure - or worst yet, I could still be in a marriage that made me miserable.

I'm not going to focus on the house as a place I don't want to be anymore. I am going to focus on the great things about it instead:

- the garden
- room to entertain
- HUGE closets
- a garage (oh, I have missed my garage)
- Great neighborhood
- nice big kitchen
- big wood porch
- a workshop
- loads of storage space
- room for all my furniture
- a place for the gals and I to have a garage sale
- a dishwasher AND a garbage disposal (things you don't get in apartments in my area.)
- hardwood floors
- light filled bedroom with a window seat
- the potential to do whatever I want - paint walls green with polka dots if I choose.
- and, it is a fantastic investment property!

No more crying or complaining - only looking forward and moving ahead!



Photo by RBerteig
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Friday, June 27, 2008

How to Save Gas Money at Going to Work


I mentioned recently that I blew my gas budget this month. Then I read an article on Passive Family Income's blog about how gas prices affected him. One thing leaped out at me - taking a different route to work.

So, I work approximately 6 miles from work - how much can I really shave off? Well, quite a bit it seems. I've been tracking it, by changing my driving patterns a bit I can easily shave off a half of mile. Then I tracked it from the house I am moving into this weekend - another half mile off. In other words, by simply taking a different route each day I can save a mile each way - two miles total.

Ok, it doesn't seem like much, but there are other advantages:

For one thing, I find myself much more engaged while driving. Probably because of the newness of the route (and this may change in time) but I find myself looking around at nature, people's landscaping, beautiful buildings - instead of driving with my mind stressed out and thinking about how I'm going to scrape up a few more dollars.

Secondly, this route is a slower pace. I am finding I am enjoying the relaxing drive, rather than the speed of the expressways, and while the route may take a little longer, I am out of major traffic which is nice.

I am not sure if my little 2 miles a day saved will help a lot - but hey, out of pennies....



Photo by snarl.




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Thursday, June 26, 2008

What is NonPassive Income?

Did you know I track how many visitors come to my little site, how they get here, and that kind of thing? Seeing my small statistics slowly rise helps me feel motivated to write. (I bet I still know half of you personally!) One of the things I can track is the words people used on search engines to find my site. One string caught my eye:

What is NonPassive Income?

It struck me how often we who are deep in Personal Finance throw around words that we assume everyone knows. So here we go:

Dawn's Down and Dirty Definition for NonPassive Income: NonPassive Income = Work.

Basically it is your job, or services you do for money, including tips and bonuses. It is traditional income.

Passive income, on the other hand, is ways to earn money without doing work. It includes things like bank interest, dividends from investments, rental fees earned, advertising dollars - things like that. I have thrown both terms around pretty loosely, so let's get down to brass tacks. Over and over I mention The List. The List is a legal pad of ideas I came up with as ways to try to get myself an extra $900 a month and keep myself out of foreclosure. There are basically only two ways to get more money - spend less and earn more. Since we are at the end of the month, I am going to do a wrap up of what I have done from The List over the last month and put it in terms of Passive and NonPassive Income and Savings.

Savings:

Lowered my mortgage payment - I wrote about this as one of those "follow through" things. I really didn't have to work at this, all I had to do was make a phone call to verify that my escrow shortage check was received and there you go - $80 in my pocket each month. What I love about savings like this is - I get this every month, I am not going to go changing my blog to "Getting Eight Hundred and Ten," but you see where I am going with this.

Changed how I handled "Emergency Savings" - This was simply changing a big fat spending habit I had. Since making this change I am no longer frittering away $50 a month who knows where. I have really seen the difference! Usually at the end of the month I'd be nervous about making sure that my bank account was "covered" so I didn't go into the red. This month the account is fat and healthy and I feel no need to dip into my savings at all.

Passive income:

Bank Interest - Last month I earned $7.23 in bank interest. It isn't much, but out of pennies, dollars are made! I did absolutely nothing for that money. Zip. However, it isn't exactly sitting in no-interest standard account either. Some of my money is in an online savings account while the rest of it is in a higher yield checking account with my credit union. To get the higher yield account (5%) I simply made one phone call and they set it up for me in less than 5 minutes.

Cell Phone Rebate - I had totally forgotten I was due a rebate from my new cell phone. It never got to me. I made one call and they reissued the check. That $50 was one of the first things I did to get my $900 a month rolling.

NonPassive Income:

My Job - I don't talk about it much here, but I do work a 40 hour a week regular job. My income from it pays the lion's share of the bills.

A Second Job - In the month of June I picked up two second jobs, one house managing and one being an extra in a car commercial. Both of these jobs were part time temporary work - I was an extra for 4 hours and the House Managing was for 3 nights. I got offered another one which I would have loved to take, but it fell right in the middle of my move this weekend, so sadly, I had to turn it down. I am hoping I can pick up more jobs like this - I have already got a word out about doing more House Managing in the fall.

Semi-Passive Income:

Selling Stuff - Some people call selling on eBay and things like that "passive income." It isn't. If done correctly, it is a fair amount of work. There are photos to be taken, descriptions to be written, and then the product needs to be shipped out. Nonetheless, it has been my big money maker this month. I sold $297.20 on eBay and $18.94 on Amazon and Half.com. My average price of eBay items is about $17.95, although if you take out my big score with the Mikli frames, it comes out to be an average of $10.45. So, we are not talking about big items, here.

Other things in the works:

I have not included my House Managing fee in the goal numbers for this month because I haven't got the check yet. I never include money until I have the money in an account. If it arrives in the next 4 days I will add it to June, otherwise it will be a nice start to July.

I am hosting a garage sale in July with my best gal friends. More on that soon, but I am hoping that will bring in a few more shekels.

I am also going to be looking into refinancing one of the home loans. It has two, one has a great rate, but one is high. I may combine them or just refinance - we'll see what the bank says.

Currently I am working with my brother-in-law, the insurance agent, to drop my insurance premiums. That should start July 7th, so more on that soon!

There are other things happening too - as I mentioned yesterday I have some exciting things happening at Prosper.com and with companies like eBates However, I will not add those until the funds are in hand. For example, I got a $25 bonus for signing up with Proper, but I am not going to count it until the loan I bid on is repaid. Mom always told me never to count my chickens!




EDIT: Looking for more information on online book selling? I am compiling all my articles about my experiences in one place. Check them out at The Online Bookseller.


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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Cleaning House



Following in the footsteps of a few other bloggers I respect, I am making some small changes around here. Nothing serious, just a few layout changes. For one thing, I am slowly getting rid of the Adsense ads. They aren't doing anything and add nothing to the site. Passive Family Income wrote awhile back about only having ads on his site for products he actually uses. I like that. It makes sense. (He also writes in this article about Restaurant.com, which I signed up for but haven't used yet.)

In that vein I added the Prosper.com link. I currently am investing $100 with them - $75 of my own money and $25 that I got as a bonus for signing up. So far, I have really liked Prosper, and wrote about my experiences here.

Today I added a new advertisement for eBates. I used to do a ton of online shopping - now that I am being frugal it has gone way, way down! I still like online shopping for gifts though. I keeps me out of the stores (and away from impulse purchases) and I feel like I have a better time finding the perfect thing. My sister's birthday was June 5th. One of the items on her list was "fun wine glasses." Those are kind of tricky to find - if you eliminate the plain ones, the stemless ones, the ones that look like they belong to Henry the Eighth, and the stupid ones... there isn't much left! I went to my favorite "inexpensive, fun, hip" store - Target. I had just read about eBates so I decided to try it out and see if it worked. It did!

The wine glasses I found were $15.99. From eBates I got a $5 sign up bonus and then a 4% cash back on my purchase for $.64. This puts the cost of those glasses closer to $10! I noticed they have tons of stores, so that is where I will be doing a lot of my online shopping come Christmas time. Oh! If I had only known about this site earlier - the have a 6% cash rebate on Zappos.com, do you have any idea how much I could have gotten back on shoes alone???

The other thing I am doing is an idea I got from Enginero. He is listing the blogs on his blog roll by how many people they refer to his site. I've been looking for some way to change my list of blogs, to somehow sort them in order of who I get the most from. I didn't want it to be a popularity contest though, I wanted some hard metric. What I am finding is the ones I get the most from are the ones that I comment on the most, which are the ones referring people back to me. So, I thought I would give his system a try. I hope it won't be too difficult to keep up with, but I figure if I check it weekly or so, it shouldn't be too bad.

If that doesn't work, I'll list them by the number of letters in their name or something equally clever!



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Books Selling eBay vs. Half.com vs. Amazon

Today I sold my first book with Half.com! At the beginning of this month I decided to start selling whatever I can to help fund my $900 a month goal. One thing I have an abundance of is books!

First I starting listing books I that no longer need on Amazon. It is actually a very easy process to set up a store and begin selling. Unlike my sales with eBay, however, it is a very slow process. eBay auctions end (typically) in a week, meaning that you can watch the bidding and see what will happen in just seven short days. (Click here to read about my experiences with eBay on non-book items.) With book sales it is different - you throw them out there and wait for a bite. I've been selling one a week or so on average.

On Catie's advice I decided to also take a look at Half.com - eBay's answer to an online book/music store. Like Amazon, it is fairly easy to set up an account and start selling, in fact, they have much of the same process; even down to the fact that both pay directly into your checking account twice a month.

Neither Half or Amazon is really set up for vintage or antique items. To list on their websites you should have the ISBN#, and older books don't have those. In those situations the item isn't really being sold as a "book" - it is being sold as a collectible. In that case eBay is your best bet.

As for Half and Amazon there are pros and cons to each. Amazon is older and more established... with all that that implies. As one of the largest book sales websites on the web, they get a ton of traffic. It means you have more potential buyers, but it also means you have more potential sellers. There hasn't been an item that I have posted yet that I haven't had a ton of competition on - and in almost every case selling the book for less than I wanted too.

Half is less established, which means there is less competition. I notice that when I review the prices, they tend to be higher than on Amazon. A book I may be selling for $4.00 on Amazon, might be selling for $6.00 on Half. This is not always the case, by any means, but I would say the majority of the time.

My solution has been to list books on both sites. This does open the door to a potential problem of selling two copies at once, but at the speed in which they are moving, I am willing to take the risk. I will continue to post updates on my success with all three sites and let you know about how smoothly the transactions progress.

Are there any online sales websites that you love? Either as a seller or a buyer? Let me know and I will check them out!



Read More About My Online Selling Adventures:

Selling Books Online with Amazon, Half and eBay

Garage Sale vs eBay, Which is the Best Way to Sell Your Junk?

Selling Books, CDs and DVDs with Amazon and Half.com

EDIT: Looking for more information on online book selling? I am compiling all my articles about my experiences in one place. Check them out at The Online Bookseller.

Photo from austinevan.


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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

1968 Shelby Cobra Mustang Steering Wheel

Well, I did it finally. I posted my father's Shelby Cobra Steering Wheel on eBay. Let's hope she sells!! Right now I have several things listed, but not a lot of bidding going on. Plenty of watchers though - c'mon people help a girl out here!

I can't complain though, eBay has been good to me. At the end of this month I will post about my experiences and the money I have earned this way. I will say that this is not exactly passive income. This is a fair amount of work. It is worth it on a number of levels, but it isn't for the faint of heart.



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Saving Money While Moving


My mother has offered to pay for movers for me. I have been trying really hard not to take money from her - as far as I am concerned she is one of my "last resorts" when it comes to this whole financial mess. In my opinion, borrowing from relatives is never a good idea, so I told her I am holding her as my "ace in the hole." If things get so bad that I am going under and the repo men are calling - I'll make sure to call her first.

Still, she wants to help. Her daughter is in trouble and naturally she wants to do something. I understand that, so I am trying to find a good compromise by picking specific things I need and can accept help with. Sometimes this works really well, other times she doesn't seem too excited about the idea - she was happy to help me out with getting a vacuum for the house, but not so excited about helping me with getting an ironing board. (Hey, I need one, my apartment is so small I've been using one of those rotten college dorm-sized ones. It is totally impractical and I want to throw it out the window - preferably at the guy who designed it!)

My mom is the one who came up with the idea of paying for movers for me. I had this elaborate plan that involved eight friends, four SUVs and a partridge in a pear tree. Mom put the kibosh on it and insisted on me just hiring movers to do the work; as she said, "You will be relying on your friends for a lot over the next year, let's save them (and their backs) for something else." I couldn't argue with her logic*, so I tried to graciously agree.

Still, that doesn't mean that I can't do this whole thing as frugally as possible. Master Your Card has an interesting article about Managing Your Credit Cards While Moving. There's some good tips in it that I plan on following. Here are some other things I am working on:

1. My goal is to move over most of my personal items myself or with the help of friends. Especially awkward things like clothes - then I will let the movers take care of the heavy things. This will save them time, and since they are getting paid by the hour, it will save me (ok, mom) money.

2. I am using boxes and old newspapers
given to me by friends and family to box everything up. Since I am moving literally .5 mile down the road, I am not sealing the boxes with tape. The only thing I have purchased for packing so far is a roll of trash bags ($4.99) because they are my favorite way to pack shoes, linens and folded clothes. (And I can reuse them later!)

3. Each day on my way to work I am going to drop off a few bags of stuff. It is on my route anyway, so that will hopefully save some back and forth trips later on - hence, saving gas.

4. After the move, I will be giving the place a good cleaning so I can be sure and get my security deposit back!

5. I am resisting the urge to give in to my "moving stress" and spend money. For example, this morning I actually thought to myself, "I don't want to make a lunch. I'll just buy something." What?!?! Where did that thought even come from??? Then I realized - it came from the fact my apartment is in a disarray and that is making me feel unmotivated. I also feel like I "deserve" to eat out because I am stressed. At the same time I knew the following: a) I had good food in the refrigerator, b) it was healthier than anything I could eat out, c) it was cheaper, and d) I knew that I wanted to eat down my food so I didn't have to move it! I blame this momentary lapse in judgment on the chaos of moving; it just seems "easier" to eat out and with so much going on, easier sounds good. But in fact, it took me about 2 minutes to whip up and bag a tasty lunch. These potential slips are things I am going to try and avoid.

6. I have already switched over utilities for the house and the apartment starting June 30th. By setting this all up in advance I hope to avoid any unexpected charges.

7. I am dropping off a change of address form to the post office today, again by acting early I am hoping to avoid important mail getting lost in the shuffle.

8. As I pack I am making eBay, garage sale and charity boxes. This is a great time to sort things out - I have the time to decide what I really want to keep and what I can get rid of.

Do you have any tips for keeping moving costs low? Let me know - I would love to hear them!



*Especially as mom's logic is essentially the same "I don't want to squander this great resource" logic I am using on her.

Photo by Adrian F


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First Payment

Well, I did it. I got the mortgage bills in the mail for the house this weekend. So, I did what had to be done - I went into my online banking and set up payments. There are two loans on the house - totaling a mortgage payment of $1,531. According to my budget, I should be okay as long as I can keep this momentum going. Don't think I'm not scared though; it is 7 days until the end of the month and I haven't hit my goal yet. Don't get me wrong, I am really happy with what I have done, but it does mean I will have to work a little harder in July!

There are still items on The List though, including a garage sale in July. Right now I don't even know what I am going to sell, but I will focus on that after I move - I am sure there will be pleanty of things I have forgotten about there.

I kind of feel like I am getting closer and closer to the edge of a cliff - pretty soon I am going to have to jump off and either fall or fly.



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Monday, June 23, 2008

Gas Pains


So, buy the middle of this month, I already knew I had blown my gas budget for June. To be fair, I had no idea what my gas budget should be, so to make a budget I did the equivalent of throwing a dart at a wall. I picked $75. ....yeah, I am at almost double that for the month! Ouch!

Summer means a lot of driving for me. I am trying to cut some of those costs down by having a bike, but so far the bike has been used more for exercise than transportation. (I like to think of it saving on my nonexistent gym membership.) I have done some walking - I have walked to the theatre for board meetings and out to meet friends, but obviously not enough to significantly impact my bottom line.

Do you ever get the feeling that the universe is sending you signs? That's what has been happening to me in regards to gas expenses. While on my trip to Cedar Point over the 15th, Catie told me about her new credit card that she got from a local supermarket. They are running a promotion on gas right now and you can get $.10 off a gallon when you shop at their stores through Labor Day. Then last week, Passive Family Income had an article about ways to save on gas. One of the ways he mentioned? A gas credit card. Now I see Give Me Back My Five Bucks has a gas challenge for the month. Like I said, sometimes the signs are so bright, I feel like I am in Vegas.

But here is the thing, while I would like to find ways to cut down on gas, I am not going to stop going to the cabin or driving to see friends. One of the main goals of this blog is to keep me sane, and those are two things that make the stress go away. So, what is a girl to do?

The first thing is to get that gas credit card Miss Catie mentioned. Although, I have hesitations about it; after all I am doing really good at eliminating my debt - in fact, this is the first month in a long time I haven't put a penny on a credit card! There is a part of me that doesn't like the idea of another credit card in my wallet, sitting there like a sweet temptation. So to nix that in the bud, what I am going to do is only use it for gas - nothing else. When I use it, I am going to put the money I spend in a separate part of my checking account. If I put $39.82 in my tank - $39.82 gets put aside. That way when the bill comes I can just pay it off in one fell swoop. No building balances!

The store that is offering this card is where I do most of my non-farmers market shopping anyway. I also already buy all my gas from them. The reason I do is because of politics. I believe in supporting local businesses, especially ones that give back. BP, Shell and the rest have never done a thing for this community - but the owner of this store constantly gives back by building gardens and creating public walking trails - things I use a lot, not to mention giving to a theatre I care about. The way I figure it, gas prices are pretty much the same everywhere, I might as well support someone who has supported my community.

I applied for the card last week. Every time I go to this store there is this gal working there who asks me if I want a credit card. Every time, I decline. I decided that if I was going to get a card, I'd find her and give her the application - I am sure she gets a spiff or something based on the number of cards she gets.

I think she was a little surprised when I just walked up to her and said, "Hi. I want a credit card." I doubt that is the usual way she gets applications! Nonetheless she quickly handed me a clipboard and told me what she needed. It took just a minute and she was really nice - too nice really, more in that "wow. I wish you would stop touching my shoulder but I know you are genuinely nice so I can't really complain, but you are making me a little uncomfortable here and are we done yet?" kind of way. Here's the hilarious part - with my sign up, I also got my choice of a twelve pack of store brand pop, a dozen donuts, a cherry pie or a rotisserie chicken. Being that it was the only vaguely healthy option, I took the chicken. How Midwest is that?

Apply for our credit card and we'll give you a chicken!!

I love it! I've got about a third of a tank right now, any bets on whether I can make it to the end of the month?






Photo by bobbychuck24


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Movin' On Down the Road

It is time to move. This week I'll be packing up and getting ready to make the big move to the big house. I'm feeling fairly good about it, but a it nervous too.

My apartment has already been rented out. This is a very, very good thing. You see, I screwed up. With all the hullabaloo of the divorce, I forgot to tell my landlord that I was moving out. I finally remembered to call her the day the divorce was final - June 5. That's when she gave me the bad news - my lease specifically says that she has to have a full 30 days notice before moving, which technically meant that I would be responsible for payment through August 1. I was just sick to my stomach. I understood where she was coming from, after all my landlord is just running a business and in this economy getting new renters might be tough. Still, just because I understood it, doesn't mean I liked it. I was pretty mad at myself, I can tell you.

We worked out a deal though - she could show the apartment any weekday during the hours I was at work and I would do my best to keep it "show ready." If she could rent it before the end of the month, then we would just proceed as if I had given her notice on time. It seemed like a good deal, until the first time she went to show it was the one time I could have really used the apartment to myself!

Last week I wrote about spending the afternoon hauling wood. What I didn't tell you was that I dropped mom off and drove towards home, looking forward to a hot shower and dinner before going down to the theatre to House Manage. You guessed it... that's when I noticed I had voice mail. I can't check my voice mail at the cabin for some reason, so once I got into town I took a listen. It was my landlord telling me she would be at the apartment with people to view it at 6:00 and 6:15 - the exact times I needed to be there to clean up. It was 5:15 when I got the messages and I was still on the road. I called my landlady and explained the situation, letting her know it would be fine but please, please don't come up until 6:00. She promised to call first.

I walked in the door at 5:35... and was indeed out the door, fully dressed and looking professional by 6:00 on the dot. I saw the woman who was coming to see the apartment and thought to myself that she looked like just the kind of person this apartment would be good for - she looked like me. Not like we had similar features, but we were cut out of the same cloth: mid-thirties, professional women, nicely dressed, and with that "recently divorced" look in our eyes. I don't know that she was, she just looked that way to me. In any case, I was right about her being a good match for the apartment - she took it on the spot! My landlord called to tell me the great news and said I must have good karma!! I don't know about that, but I was thrilled it turned out to be so easy, even if it did mean that my "dinner" that night consisted of a crude sandwich, made from meat and cheese I had in my car from the cabin, that I put together on the top of a cardboard box on the way to the theatre.

The cardboard box in question was one for packing up. Now that my apartment is rented, I have filled it with the detritus of moving - boxes, crates, packing materials and plastic bags. It looks like a UPS truck exploded in the middle of it! Tonight I am going to go home and try to put together a plan. I have friends helping me and I would like to have a somewhat organized process before they get there.

This is the big step - what I have been gearing up for all month. This is the whole reason I am keeping this blog and struggling for every penny. At the end of next Monday, I'll be up and running for real!



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Friday, June 20, 2008

How Much Wood....


Yesterday I took the day off work to spend some time up north at my cabin. My goal is still to get it "rent ready" and try to earn some income that way. As Tracey pointed out - if I can't get it rented the worst thing that could happen is I get the cabin cleaned inside and out and the yard looking great. Not a bad trade-off in my opinion!

My mother came up with me because I wanted her opinion. When I was a kid we used to regularly rent a cottage for a week in the summer. I thought she could help me walk through and see what might stand out to her as things I needed to do beforehand. She also volunteered to help me work on the yard and get things done.

In most ways having my mom up there was fantastic. She is great company and was a hard worker. She got tons and tons of raking done and helped trim a bunch of unruly bushes. The areas she worked on look so much better. There was one little thing that I found frustrating though... she wants to remodel the entire cabin. She may be right, but I can't afford it.

My mom has a great eye and is a marvelous interior decorator. She also is very good at quickly seeing what can be done to a room to make it more appealing. The thing is though, I just don't have the money (or time) right now for the projects she is proposing. As she walked through the cabin talking about replacing flooring and putting in new cupboards I had to remind her over and over that I wasn't looking to remodel this year - just get it "renter ready." It was like talking to a wall. I could see her looking around and replacing light fixtures in her head. Finally I had to burst out, "Mom, unless it is FREE I am not doing it. I can't. My goal is to make money - not spend it. I cannot afford to do anything else." She said something about helping me, but I just had to stop her. There are things I will need her to help me with, but frankly, replacing the kitchen cupboards is just not a priority.

It was hard for me on a couple of levels. Remember that whole Shame of Frugality thing I wrote about awhile back? Yeah.... there is also the Humiliation of Being Poor. I don't like admitting that I can't afford something. I hate having to say that I don't have money to spend - that my bank account is empty. (Even saying it to my mom stinks.) I doubt I am alone - it does help explain our fondness with credit cards, doesn't it? "Mastercard means never having to admit you are poor."*

The other thing is, to be perfectly honest, I don't think the cabin looks bad. Yes, there are things that could and should be done.... but it is a cabin in the woods. It isn't supposed to look ultra modern or have perfect rooms. People should feel like they can track dirt in and put their sandy feet up on the coffee table. I am okay with that. It is a place to kick back - not a showpiece. It is hard to explain to my mother though.

She and I concentrated on working on the yard while we were there. The weather was cool so it was just right for working outside. I decided to run the mower to make sure that there weren't any mice rebuilding homes inside of it, and while in the shed I heard an odd sound. It sounded like my propane grill was on. It hasn't worked in a long time so I knew it couldn't be. That's when I realized that bumblebees had built a nest in it. Oh yes, I need that now. I didn't have any bug-b-gone or anything like that, so I just concentrated on moving the mower out very carefully and not bumping the grill. Next time I go up I will bring some spray along. That should be exciting. Anyone got a HazMat suit I can borrow?

As I was blowing any forming mouse houses out the mower exhaust and trying to flatten the yard to a more presentable height, my neighbor came over to ask me if I wanted to go in with him on a log splitter. Last fall he and I had some trees taken down. I had the wood hauled away, but he kept the trunk of his. Back then he offered me as much of the wood as I wanted - the only condition was that I had to split it. I talked to my then husband, and he told me we could rent a log splitter. Well, time passed and the only thing that got split was my marriage. Those huge pieces of trunk were still piled up along I and the neighbor's property line.

So yesterday Justin, my neighbor, offered me the wood if I'd go in with him on the splitter. I agreed, little knowing what I was getting into!! I ended up spending hours loading red oak logs into a wheelbarrow and taking them over to my woodpile. I have no idea how many trips I made, but when all was done I had two stacks 12' long and 5' high. Believe me, my shoulders are feeling it today!!

Still - my half of the rental was $25. I am guessing that I got well over $100 worth of wood there. I will be loving it this fall! There is nothing like being quiet and cozy under a quilt with a nice fire going in the fireplace.



*I am getting better at admitting that I am broke. And you want to know something interesting? Once you start saying it - and do get comfortable with it, lots of other people feel comfortable saying, "Really?? Me too!" It can be freeing... when it doesn't completely stink.

Photo by humbolthead.


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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Whooo hooo!!! Over halfway there!

I got a big, big help from eBay today. Tommy had given me a couple pairs of glasses to sell to help me meet my goals - and one of the designer pairs fold for $103.50! Yay! Who knew that empty eyeglass frames could be so popular?

I sold a few other items as well. The total came to $133.71 for today. Now, my profit will be slightly less because I still have to ship them out, but I am trying to do that as inexpensively as possible. My plan is to get a few more items listed yet today and then take a bunch of photos tonight of some other items I need to put online.

One of the items I have yet to list is my father's steering wheel from his 1968 Shelby Cobra. I am hoping to have that online this week or next. Now, that is going to be a tricky item to ship!! I did however contact a Shelby Restoration website to see if they would be interested. They weren't but they gave me a good idea what to list it for on eBay. You'll have to keep an eye on this blog to find out how much they suggested!



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The Large Print Giveth... and the small print taketh away*

Actually it isn't print that is giving and taking - it's life. I've had a weird financial roller coaster couple of weeks. For example:

Sending in my emergency room visit bill to Flex Plan is smart.
Holding onto the cashed check in my savings account through the end of May to get the interest on it (since the bill wasn't due until June 9th) was also smart.
Forgetting to pay said bill until June 13? Dumb.

Lesson learned - I pay all my bills online, so I set them up and forget about them. Either always do that or pay the bill right away. Thinking I will remember a week later is a recipe for disaster.

I just got the bill for the balance of what I owed my lawyer for handling the divorce.
Paying him half when I had the cash was smart.
Hoping he might forget about me and just not send a bill for the rest? Dumb.
To make matters worse, the bill is $200 more than I expected. (Court fees.)

Lesson learned - People are going to want to get paid. That is just the way the world works. Hoping someone will "forget" a debt is just naive. Plan on paying it and make the arrangements to do so. (And per the first lesson I will set it up in my online bill pay today.)

Awhile ago I wrote about going to Cedar Point. This was a hard decision for me - I am trying to be so, so frugal and careful about extra spending, but on the other hand Maureen had asked me to go and had offered to help offset my costs. While there, I did end up spending my entire entertainment budget for the month, which seems dumb, seeing as I am only halfway through the month, however while on the trip:
I found out my friend Stasia has moving boxes I can use. Free boxes with little hassle. Smart.
My friend Randy offered me the use of his gym/pool at his apartment. Free gym? Smart!
I also chatted with someone out about a business opportunity.** It is a great opportunity, but I am not sure I am in the best space to take it on. Still - being open to new ideas? Very smart!

Lesson Learned - Sometimes you do have to just say yes. I had a wonderful time on my trip and it was like a mini-vacation. It also put me in contact with friends and opportunities I would not have known about. Being open to what the universe has to offer is very, very important.





*Tom Waits, "Step Right Up"
** I am not going to write about it here until I make decisions about it.


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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Prosperous Lending

One of the things I am going to do is set up passive income streams so I don't burn myself out trying to make my goal. Working another 40 hour job might do the trick and get me to my $900 goal, but it might also kill me in the process. (And I very much like being alive.)

I thought I would write today a bit about Prosper.com. I am a bit new to the program but so far I love it. The concept is one that I can support - basically it puts together people who need a loan with people who want to lend. They do it on a large scale of course, so it isn't one to one. The borrowers then can avoid the big banks and the lenders make a nice interest rate - simple. Personally, I like it from a business perspective. I'm the type who believes that people can take things into their own hands. I'm not a big fan of big banks - especially with the credit crises of recent days. I like the concept of people working together.

As I say, I am new to this so I don't know how this whole thing is going to pan out. Just because I love the concept and so far my experience has been positive, but that doesn't mean it guaranteed by any means. As things happen, I will try to post about them so people can see my experiences.

Here's what I have found so far: Frankly, the sign up process takes a bit longer than expected. In order to transfer money to Prosper.com you have to create an account and then give them your routing and account numbers. They then make a deposit in your bank account and then withdrawal a small amount. (It was less than $.25) It worked very similar to setting up a Paypal account or setting up an online savings account. The actual process of creating the account was easy - they walk you through all the steps. But I will say that it took several business days for me to see the deposit and withdrawal. This may have been because I did it just before Memorial Day weekend, but the process took about a week. I was checking it every day and starting to get frustrated. I might not have been if someone had warned me about it.

Once that was completed then I had to transfer money to my Prosper account so I could bid - and that took another 5 days. Basically it was almost 2 weeks before I could lend. I found that a touch frustrating since I like to get going on things right away.

Once the money was in the account though, Prosper gave me a $25 welcome bonus, which meant my $50 went straight up to $75. Not bad! You have two choices then - you can choose the loans you want to bid on, or you can use one of their Portfolio Plans and let them do it for you. With a Portfolio Plan you choose your own template: Conservative, Balanced, Moderate, Aggressive or make one of your own. I'm madly busy right now with the move and everything else, so I chose the Moderate Plan and let Prosper deal with the rest rather than choosing and bidding myself.

Here is some of the information on my first loan that I helped fund:

Purpose of loan:
This loan will be used to pay down my car so that I can sell it. I have a new company car and no longer need my 350Z. It is worth about 16,500 but I still owe about 21,000 on it. The rest of the money will pay off my biggest interest credit card.

My financial situation:
I am a good candidate for this loan because I have good credit, I have a career in a company with a low turnover rate, I make good money, and I have never been late on a payment before. I also do make more money than I have listed, but I was not sure how to list commissions, so I only listed my base salary.

It gives a lot of other financial data as well - monthly expenses, salary, debt to income ratio, etc. It also has a nice photo of him and his wife on their wedding day. I like that - it gave it a personal touch.

I then transfered over another $25 so I could add it to my referral bonus and make another $50 bid. This one I put in a Balanced Portfolio Plan so I could see the difference between how the two perform. I just did that today so I don't have details yet. I will let you know how it works as time goes on.

If you have questions, I recommend checking out Prosper.com at their website. (If you do sign up after reading this article, please use my link so I can get credit for the referral.) As things happen - I will keep you posted!




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Combining Finances - The Divorcee Has Her Say


Moolanomy has an interesting article on his blog on Money and Marriage: On Combining Finances. I feel like I should chime in here, since I, as one recently divorced, have a unique perspective on it. My ex and I never combined finances. In the long run, this turned out to be a good thing for me, since that would have been another nightmare to deal with during the divorce, but I also wonder if that wasn't a sign in the very beginning that I didn't have 100% faith in the relationship.

We didn't mix finances on my request. My feeling was that we were two adults who had been handling our own finances for a long time. We each had our own ways of paying bills and savings, and I didn't see why marriage should change that. We still split expenses, which made things equal, and that seemed enough to me.

Looking back on it, I am not sure that was such a good idea. Here's why: I didn't find out until after we were engaged and heading towards the alter at full clip that he was considerably in debt. I won't give numbers here, because that wouldn't be right, but let's just say it shocked me to my core. After hearing how much, I was determined more and more to keep things separate. Not asking about and discussing financial matters is just plain dumb. You know what? I knew better.... but a bunch of things kept me from asking before; I was in love, we were getting married, and my ex seems so capable and together. He never seemed to worry about money. (Maybe that should have been a red flag?)

Speaking of signs - the fact that I didn't trust him enough to mix our funds tells me that there was a flaw at the core of our relationship from the beginning. At the same time, I do believe that married couples should have some of their own money. A woman doesn't want to explain every time she splurges on a new lipstick or a guy buys a new tool for his shop. Couples don't want the other to see how much they spent on that birthday present they bought for one another or the "I'm sorry honey" roses. I think everyone needs the power to have a little "mad money" - the possibility to save up for something special.

Here's what I think - couples have to be honest and open about the money they make, and most importantly, the debt they have. Once they get married, statements and bill paying should be shared. Both people should know 1.) how to pay the bills, 2.) what the bills are, and 3) when they are being paid. The goal here should be that both people are equally comfortable with finances. You hear all the time about one spouse dying or a divorce happening and the other person has no idea what their financial situation is - that shouldn't happen. In my humble opinion household bills and expenses should be paid out of one joint checking account. At the same time, a small agreed on "allowance" should be given to each person to use as they see fit. The amount can be readjusted annually as the yearly budget is made.

My belief is that there has to be financial openness and joint responsibility - otherwise, it is time to really revisit your feelings. If you can't trust your spouse with your checkbook, can you really trust them with your happiness?








Money photo by Darren Hester.


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Friday, June 13, 2008

Trashed!


Last night I ran into my ex - who generously gifted me with the trash bill. You know, I've been living in an apartment too long - I didn't even think to calculate trash into my budget.

So, now I had to decide what to do. The trash bill was $152 a year or $40 a quarter. Paying for a full year only saved me $8. Considering the fact that we are well into June here, the added expense was not at all welcome and $40 sounded like a pretty good deal but, then I thought about it more. I am a firm believer that "out of pennies, dollars are made," and I would be happy if I sold one of my books for $8. Plus, this month is really just a trial run. See, the mortgage on the house for June has already been paid by my ex - this month I only had to pay rent on the apartment. That's a huge difference and it means that I have a little extra money to play with.

Most of that extra money will all be going towards creating a cushion for next year. (I am sure there will be months where it will be hard to make my goal.) So, ultimately I decided to pay the bill in full. It just made sense. Now I don't have to worry about it being in my budget - it is already paid for the year. I save the money and it isn't something that will sneak up on me four months from now.

Speaking of trash, and therefor recycling.... I am about to admit something embarrassing:

I don't bring my cans and bottles to the store to recycle them.

Now, before treehuggers everywhere come after me - I do recycle them. It is just that rather than taking them back to the store, I put them in recycling containers. Now why would I do this since I live in a state with cash refunds for bottles?

Simple - because usually I don't have enough of them to matter. I don't usually drink things that come in returnable bottles at home - I rarely have beer or pop in the house. On the rare occasion that I have a returnable in the house it is usually from a friend leaving a bottle of pop or something like that. I have 2-3 a month at best. It hardly seems worth it to bring back one pop can when I go to the store, so I put them in recycling bins instead.

However, as of late I seemed to have accumulated a number of them, so for the first time in quite awhile, I saved cans. I ended up with a half of bag full of cans and bottles so yesterday I decided to bring them back to the store. As I walked down the back steps I noticed one PBR and one Coke can in the recycling bin - apparently I am not the only one who feels this way.

Laughing at myself the whole time, I walked over and fished them out. How's that for frugal?



This fantastic photo is by bucklava



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Thursday, June 12, 2008

What Goes Up... Must Come Down

I know! Let's talk about insurance!! Yeah!!!

(You know you want to.)

I've been talking to my brother-in-law, who is also my insurance agent, about what to do about my insurance post divorce. The first thing is house insurance. The house and the the cabin are in my name. My rates will be dropping by about $100 since my ex's camera gear and electronics won't be on the homeowners policy. Yeah!

The down side is my car insurance rates are going up now that I no longer have that multi-car discount going on. (I tried but he would not accept my bicycle as a second vehicle.) The rates are going up about $14 a month, but naturally I found a way to get around that and drop it down to a smaller increase of $6. How you ask? Simple. I am not paying monthly.

Each week I have a small amount auto transfered out of my checking account into my "insurance holding tank." Basically, my bank lets me divide out little accounts for various things - so, I added up my car and life insurance bills, divided them by 52, and set it up so that when the bills hit, I have the funds. It is nice - I hate unexpected bills. Somehow my life insurance bill always snuck up on me.

So anyway... the ex and I were still sharing car insurance and he liked to pay monthly. However, I'm not going to do that. I am going to pay 6 months all in one lump sum. It is going to have to come out of savings of course, because I wasn't prepared to do this. But I have a plan! I am just going to continue my insurance payments... except rather them going to the insurance company - they will be going back to me! Basically, I am loaning myself the money and paying myself back. (At the same time I am going to move things around a little so I am better prepared 6 months from now.)

I am also working on the life insurance policy. I have a universal life policy.* I have a bit of cash value in it, but am still in the penalty period if I surrender it. I don't want to do that right now unless I have to. Instead I am going to drop my payments down for a year, but keep the policy in force. In a year when I have a better handle on things I can reevaluate what I want to do - kick it back up or what have you. I think this will work well for me - I will remain insured, but I continue to have flexibility.

I'll write more about the final details once my brother in law and I get together to hash them out.

(There now, wasn't that fun?)




*Insurance people - yes, I know all about Term Life. I was licensed in Life, Health and P&C once upon a time. This is the best fit for me right now for a bunch of reasons - but we'll leave that for another post.


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This is Why I Love Blogs

Seriously, go check this article out on The Simple Dollar on Frugality's Perception Problem. I feel like it is all about the things I have been thinking about and writing about lately. Wow!


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Ah Gas Prices, How We Hate Thee

So, I blew my gas budget for June. To be perfectly honest, I am not feeling too badly about it. The truth is that I wasn't entirely sure how much to budget - I was completely winging it! My gut said that $100 had to be too much, but I was sure I was spending at least $50... so I went with $75. Despite driving a pretty fuel efficient car, I am currently at $89.89 on the twelfth day of June. Sigh.... I have a full tank, so we will see how that does. I may have to modify the gas portion of my budget once I have really tracked my gas usage over the next few months. I have been doing a lot of traveling the last couple of days so that has an impact, but for the most part it has been for money making opportunities - trips to the post office to mail Amazon and eBay items, trips for my second jobs - things like that. Summer months are undoubtedly going to always be higher months for gas consumption for me since I have a cabin as well. I guess the best I can do is just keep practicing riding my bike!

So, I tracked how many miles it takes me to work - it is almost exactly 6 miles one way. I would love to think I could ride my bike, but we are talking about some major hills in between, and right now I am still panting hard when I hit a sloped driveway! I did, however, find a great riding path that is about 3 miles long (one way.) It also has some steep hills, so it might be a good training ground. Am I saying I will ride my bike to work? No.... not yet. Not only are there big hills to tackle, there is also the time and the heat. I don't want to arrive at work a sweaty mess, but it is something to consider anyway.

Unfortunately I didn't get any good bike riding practice in last week - too much going on in the evenings. I might have to start getting up early and taking a trip around the neighborhood. Goodness knows I could use the exercise!!



Thanks to TopSpeed for the photo of my car! Ok - this is the "Type R" version, but that is just the UK name for it - and I liked this photo the best of all the ones I found.



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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Divorce War Stories

As I've said, this is not a blog where I am going to dwell on the particulars of my divorce. All the ugliness really happened quite awhile ago... it just took awhile for the paperwork to catch up. Occasionally, however, something happens that I just have to mention.

The "big day" of the divorce was last Thursday. That night Catie and I went to opening night of a play. (The beauty of it was that her mom, the fabulous Maureen, gave us her comp tickets. Total cost of the evening was under $10.00.) So anyway... after the show we are milling about and talking and sipping red wine. I'm hitting up Mary Jo for a second job House Managing in the fall and basically enjoying being around people I haven't seen in awhile. That's when one of the actresses came up to me and said, "So, how is your lovely husband?"

I burst out laughing. I didn't mean to, but it just took me by complete surprise. Not that I expect everyone to know - I am not that egotistical! It was just that several people that day had commented on my divorce and since theatre is a small town within a small town, it took me by surprise. I explained the situation and I could see by her face she was terribly embarrassed for having asked. I felt bad for Bernie, she was only being sweet. I should have handled the situation a lot more tactfully; I could see my laughter embarrassed her, and I would have if I hadn't been thrown for a loop. As she walked away into the crowd I wanted to find her and pull the foot out of my mouth - but it was already too late.

Why do I bring this up on my blog about finances? Well, I've been thinking a lot about how my ex and I aren't really done with each other. There is still the impending move, utilities to switch over and public confrontations to work our way through. We think when that stamp hits the paper that POOF! everything is done and final, but it isn't really, and debt is kind of like that for me. Twice in the last 5 years I have had my credit cards all completely paid off. I revelled in the zero balances for a good couple of months... and then slowly started using my cards again. I paid them off in full at first, but then somehow balances grew and didn't get paid off this month (thinking, "maybe next, or the one after that for sure.") Currently I have $1,500 in credit card debt.* It is at a low interest rate and I have always paid over the minimum payment on my credit card, and I know compared to many, $1,500 is just a drop in the bucket, but still, it bothers me.

I haven't stopped paying over the minimum even with my goal to get $900 more a month, instead, I have budgeted in the over payment. (I do have on The List to decrease my payment on my card, but this is one of those rock-bottom choices, just slightly above borrowing from mom.) My new super-frugalness will theoretically keep me from putting any more on the card and the over payment will help shrink it down. Like the divorce, this is going to be a long haul, and once it is done - I still am going to be dealing with the aftermath for a time to come. It is the right thing to do, but a long, long ways from being easy.





*Whew... there I said it. Do you have any idea how hard was for me to admit that? To write it down and see it in black and white? UGH! Still, lots of other bloggers are being open about their debt, it is time I am about mine. I was inspired by their courage and the fact that the other night Catie said she was going to ask me for actual numbers when she and I were sitting and talking about all this stuff. I've decided to try to be as open and honest as I can. Perhaps getting rid of some of the shame will help me pull this out of the closet and deal with it like I should.


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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A Good Day

Moving day is looming closer and closer. My ex is paying the bills on the house until June 30th, at which point I take over. Am I nervous? Oh my yes! Starting July 1st I will be making all the house payments - that is when I will see if this new plan of mine can really work.

Sometimes I think about the worst that could happen - I mean really, let's look at this. The first thing is that I could have to sell a place at a loss. Selling a home right now though is hard - even under value. Many friends have asked me if I will sell my cabin, and the answer is, I will if I have to. My mom has pointed out that I can always get another place later on when things aren't so tight. However, there is a big difference between saying "Okay, I will sell the cabin." ...and then actually doing it. Look at the house that I am moving into - it has been on the market for months and hasn't moved. Putting it on the market doesn't mean it will instantly sell. The other thing I fear is foreclosure - debt that I can't handle - black marks on my credit report - it scares me a lot. I am a practical woman, I don't believe in taking on more than you can handle... and yet, here I am with $2750,000 of mortgage debt and an income that won't cover it.

That's right - over a quarter of a million. The number makes me want to faint away in a Southern woman swoon. The house was $199,000 and the cabin was $75,000 - at the time it all seemed so manageable. Now, I am ecstatic because I earned $100 as an extra in a car commercial. (The windblown blur in the lavender shirt - that's me!)

Don't get me wrong, the $100 is a huge boon to me right now - hey, I am gleeful when one of my books sells for $7, so $100 for a few hours of work walking around a car lot and pretending to be interested in used Kias is a huge windfall for me, but when I compare it to how much I owe... well, it all seems a bit overwhelming.

That's why I can't think of it that way - instead I have to concentrate on each day, each moment. Here's today's victory:

After the shoot I was starving. I hadn't eaten since 10 and we got done about 3:00. I was diving back to work and decided I didn't have a choice but to pull into some fast food joint and grab something to eat on the road. I hate fast food - the service is lousy, the food is terrible, it isn't fast and it isn't cheap, but sometimes you have to do what you have to do. I pulled into McDonald's. I hate McDonald's the most - just in principle, but I admit, I do love a fillet o' fish. I sat there in line, waiting and waiting, and I thought, "What am I doing?" I didn't want to waste my dining out budget on bad food - I would rather spend it having a glass of wine with Shelly tonight.* I knew I had a salad in the refrigerator at work, all I had to do was tough it out for another 30 minutes and I could eat that instead - not only less money, but healthier for me. I pulled out of the drive through line and sped off.

I guess I should be grateful that McDonald's is so slow and their service so poor; if I had gotten right up to the box to order I would have - and spent the money. I was so hungry that it really didn't occur to me to not stop for fast food... not until I was sitting in the barely moving line. Then it hit me - it would be a good 15 minutes or more before I could even think about eating. All that to save time - how foolish is that?

What's more, after I left the line, I thought about stopping somewhere else for a coffee. The day had been long and I was feeling pretty low energy, the caffeine sounded great. Instead I just drove to work, (where the pop is free,) and grabbed a Diet Coke. I wasn't entirely good though, after my salad I splurged on a $.85 Milky Way bar since I was craving chocolate.

I think my defenses are less when I am hungry and tired - and that is something I will have to watch for as I try to curb excess spending.

The good news is I have a $100 check in hand and it looks like some of my eBay stuff is moving today.







*Tonight Shelly and I are meeting up at the theatre so I can get a course in house Managing. Yay!!





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Monday, June 9, 2008

...in which Dawn does a goofy dance around her office -

I got great news today!! Maureen the most fabulous casting agent ever (and dear friend) needs some extras for a car commercial and I got called! Sweet!! It means I have to take a half of day vacation from work, but vacation time is something I have a fair amount of. (And money is something I don't.) My boss is understanding and gave me the go ahead.

One thing I should note - I don't put any money up in that right hand column until the check is pretty much in my hand. So, for example, I won't add the pay from this work until the check arrives. Same thing with House Managing - I'll add in the amount when the money is in my warm little hands. I got teased about this slightly* but there will be no counting of chickens until I can look into their beady little black eyes. I would rather have a surplus then plan for something that doesn't come, you know?

One other thing I am doing: I have a flex plan through work - now I am trying to use it properly. My flex plan reimburses me for health costs that aren't covered by my insurance - therapy, co-pays, prescriptions - that kind of thing. I love my flex plan - especially this year when I've had no end of weird medical ailments. So, for example, I go to the dentist and they charge me $45. I take my receipt and send it in,
and they send me back a $45 check in a day or two. (My flex plan is super fast.) But here is where lays the problem....

I know that $45 is not budgeted for, so I would try to do "good things" with it - put it in my "high" interest savings account or pay off credit card debit. Except because it wasn't budgeted for, that was just like randomly taking out an unplanned $45 out of checking. Once upon a time when money was rolling in and I was rolling in it, this was just fine. But now that I am feeling the pinch of my bills and looming house payments, this hurts my bank account. It means I would get tight at the end of the month, when I got tight at the end of the month I would simply solve the problem by taking money out of savings. It was a vicious cycle and one I am working really hard to break. One way is by not taking money out of savings, the other is to use my reimbursement checks like reimbursement checks - and put the money back where it belongs. It was a real case of trying to do the right thing, but having it backfire.

So, tonight when I get out of work, I am swinging by the bank and dropping off my flex check - and just letting it go back into checking where it belongs.


*You know who you are, Irish!




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Setting up Online Selling with Amazon and eBay

Passive Family Income asked about my experiences of selling items on eBay and Amazon, so I thought I would write a little more about that.

Amazon:
Setting up an Amazon store is really easy. They also make it very easy to list items - especially books, where all you need is an ISBN#. I sold my first online item through Amazon and it happened within the first day or two, so at first I was very excited about it... but since then I haven't sold anything.

*** One of the things I am taking away from Amazon and Half.com is that from now on I will endeavor to never buy a new book at full price again! Both sites show you what other people are selling the book for so that you can price yours accordingly. Books that I paid $15 for and more are selling for $.50 or less - NEW. It is crazy! I am still going to go to the bookstore and relax and shop with a cup of coffee, but then when I find something I want I am just going to jot down the ISBN# and look it up on Amazon - even with shipping it is far, far cheaper than buying it at the store.***

ISBN# are on the back of every book - it is a universal media tracking system. So, to sell on Amazon or Half.com all you have to do is jot down the ISBN and the condition of the book. Then set up an account, plug in the ISBN and you are up and running.

Initially I was listing all my books with Amazon, thinking that because most people think of Amazon as only being businesses online (as opposed to "just folks") that I might be able to get more for my books on that on eBay. The other thing I like is that the listing doesn't expire - it just stays up until you remove it. Since things haven't really been moving though, today I listed my first book over at Half.com. (which is a site for books and so forth, that is run by eBay.) My goal is to get all my books and DVDs on both websites, then I will be able to track which site has the better performance.

eBay

eBay takes a little more work. Once again, they start things pretty easy - they walk you though setting up an account and make it very easy to post your items online. For one thing, you need photos. I have an incredibly cheap, low-end low-tech camera. (But I got it for free, so I am not complaining.) To put one photo up of your item is free, after that they cost $.15. I believe in good photos, since from my own shopping experience I never bought anything off eBay that didn't have good photos. I think people want to see what they are are buying. If the item is pretty self explanatory, then I might just put one photo, but if I think it is a collector's item I will use more. Basically, the more I want people to spend - the more photos I put up.

Then I write a good description. I try to use words I think will search well, and try to use obvious descriptors. If there is a brand name involved I make sure that is in there too. I try to make it sound personable - but no huge fonts or crazy colors. I hate that stuff, just simple, clean, honest and to the point.

When you are a new seller you have to use PayPal - that keeps them safe in case you turn out to be a shyster. I like that anyway because then they handle all the transactions with bank accounts and whatnot. I already had a PayPal account so it all ties in. From PayPal you can also print shipping labels for UPS or USPS.

I find eBay addictive. You can see how many people are looking at your items, if anyone is watching it and you can see the bids go up. It is really fun. However, I am finding that it is better for me to put one or two items up at a time, that way the auctions don't end all at once. As soon as I see something is going to sell, I box it up and get it ready to go so it can be shipped out ASAP. I know from my own experience that fast shipping is a plus.

I don't know that I would ever want to be one of those professional online sellers - it is a lot of work. Although, I call it "passive income" - it isn't quite that easy. However, as a way to raise extra cash and clean out my apartment at the same time, it can't be beat.

I will keep updating on here how it goes - what works and what doesn't. If there is something you want to know about how it all works that I didn't mention - shoot me an email or ask a question in the comments section. I'll be happy to answer it!


EDIT: Looking for more information on online book selling? I am compiling all my articles about my experiences in one place. Check them out at The Online Bookseller.


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Begining of the Week Reflections

The number to the right is slowly growing. I finally got my t-mobile check. So that adds another $50.00 - and I have sold several eBay items. I've been offered/given a few more eBay items from dear friends and family so that is exciting - especially as the Amazon books don't seem to move much. I may have to look for another outlet for those.

One of the big things I am thinking about is the impending move. My ex is going to be out on the 21st, and I will have the following week to move in. Have I mentioned that I hate moving? A Penny Closer has an interesting article about his brother's move. Fortunately, mine isn't that bad. I am only moving about 7 blocks or so, and I don't have that much furniture - I don't even have a couch! When I moved out I did one of those "rent a truck for $19.99" things. You know what? It came to a lot more than $19.99!! Charges per mile and whatnot piled up and it ran me nearly $100. A friend of mine said that when she and her husband moved recently they ran into the same thing.

I am trying to figure out my options. The way I see it, I could move most of my small things myself and with help of friends. The things that won't fit in my car, I am going to have to get a vehicle for. I need to see if someone in town has one I could borrow, or I saw a moving company on Craig's List that looks like they are looking for work. I might jot down what I have and get a quote from them. If I can have them move the heavy stuff cheap enough, it may be worth it. It certainly won't be any harm getting the quote and I'll see where I go from there.



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Friday, June 6, 2008

Passive Income Continues

Well, I have been keeping up my goal of posting 3 or more things on Amazon or eBay a day and I am building up a nice inventory of items. Does anyone else find eBay obsession forming??? I want to check it hourly!! Books are a lot easier to list, since all you really need is the ISBN#. Items on eBay are a little harder, since I need to take good photos of them first and all that. I find I tend to put several eBay things on at once and Amazon items regularly everyday. I need to do that differently, I think. Otherwise, what happens is the auctions all end at once and I am scrambling to mail things out. A better way for me to do it is to take a lot of photos of things all at once, but then post them one at a time so the auction expiration dates are spaced out. The good news is, I just heard from my mother (who is my eBay item source) that she has in her basement an incredible, amazing item... the steering wheel from my father's orignal 1968 Shelby Mustang.

This was the car he agonizingly had to sell when my mother and he got married. I had heard about the car for years - that my father was the original owner and had driven up to the factory to pick the car up - and how angry he was when he found the speedometer had 5 miles on it when he got there. What I never heard was that my father had apparently kept the steering wheel - and my mother still has it.

It is odd to me to think she not only packed it, but moved it. Steering wheels are not exactly the most convenient things to pack. I am going to have to do some research before I post it. This isn't just a common everyday drain stopper.


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I Have a Second Job!!!

Two of them, actually.

Shelly is amazing. She came through yet again for me - or maybe it is fate working through Shelly? In either case, I am incredibly excited. She emailed me and told me she is really, really short handed for the summer and is looking for someone to help out a couple nights and House Manage at the theatre. Would I be interested? Heavens Yes!!

I was a House Manager at a different theatre for years. It's a job I like and I feel I am good at. I enjoy working with the volunteer ushers and helping the patrons. It's one of those jobs that can be pretty hectic for an hour, quiet for two hours, then back to being hectic - which frankly, makes for a nice pace. It is also the perfect part-time temp work which is exactly what I need right now. So, emboldened by that opportunity I went after another one!

I doubt there will be much work for Shelly. I really wish there was, but I am assuming come fall she will have her full contingency of workers again - it is just during these summer months she is short handed. So, last night when I was at the theatre where I used to House Manage way back when, I ran into Mary Jo and asked if she needed help again. She does!! She said she would be happy to use me She'll have work during the fall, so it should all work out.

It won't be enough to get the nine hundred I need by a long, long shot. But this kind of thing will really help my bottom line - on top of being work I like and places I love.


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Thursday, June 5, 2008

Well, It Finally Happened

I am divorced.

It happened today at 1:30. The whole thing was a bit anticlimactic, but I knew it would be. You can't spend years working through all this to have it done in 5 minutes and it not be anticlimactic. I think there should be some sort of ritual when you get divorced - there is with weddings and deaths, why not divorces? If it was up to me there would be incense and chanting... and marching bands. Something to indicate that this is a big occurrence. My ex wasn't even there. I am glad I went, however. I am glad it I was there to look the judge in the eye and realize this is a start of a whole new life.

There is a lot happening with me right now, but it feels good - as though I am returning to who I was - except better, stronger and more sure of what I want. Financial freedom is definitely part of it. Finding the way to make these house payments is a struggle, but also a way I am growing into myself.

And now, I feel I need to say a bit about lawyers: I know in some ways this isn't about my goal to get $900 a month, but it is something I feel I need to talk about. As I sat in that room, I could easily pick out those with lawyers and those without. The lawyer people were reading books and relaxed. The non lawyer people were clutching their forms in sweaty palms and looking nervous. I was a lawyer person.

I can't say that everyone should have an attorney - there are plenty of reasons, and money is the biggest one, to do a divorce yourself. It is certainly possible. But I have to say I watched those folks coming in, confused by the terms, not knowing what they were supposed to do and was very grateful for mine. Honestly, I didn't know what I was supposed to do either - but I knew my lawyer would tell me. (And he did.) I would say in any case where there is any kind of disagreement or going to be fighting over anything - talk to a lawyer!

...but not just any lawyer.

Here is the thing - you are paying lawyers to be on your side. I suppose this is true in any circumstance, but especially in the case of divorce. An attorney is not a third party opinion - s/he is yours, to fight for you, to defend you, to steer you in the right direction. They are there to look after your best interests, and if they aren't - then just walk away.

I watched one woman walk up with her lawyer. The judge swore her in, and her attorney asked her some questions: did she file for divorce on such and such a date, did she understand the agreement, was she aware there was no child support on this, and was she pregnant. (That was a biggie - all us ladies got asked that.) The judge then declared that it was in his jurisdiction and he had the authority to grant the divorce. The end. The attorney turned around and headed back to the lawyer corral and started chatting with other attorneys. The poor woman stood there, sort of stunned. A court clerk tried to hand her a copy of her paperwork so she reached limply to take it. Her attorney saw and wheeled around and took the papers herself - then turned her back on her client and went back to chatting. The newly divorced woman looked lost and unsure what to do now. She literally went up and stood behind her attorney (who persisted in standing with her back to her) and tried to get her attention - she was ignored. Not knowing what else to do, she left the courtroom. The woman sitting next to me and I looked at each other in horror.

This should not have happened. Look. you are paying these folks to help you. It is so easy to be overwhelmed by professionals when you don't know the language - whether it be lawyers, doctors, mechanics, roofers or pool boys. I know that attorneys get put on a pedestal, but they are just folks - like you or me.

My attorney talked to me ahead of time about what was going to happen. When we got to the judge, my lawyer noted he had found a problem with the file. He explained what happened to the judge and I and how he would fix it.* After the divorce was degreed, he had me sit and wait while he filed another divorce for one of his other clients that was there that day. When we were both done he took us outside and explained what had happened and what we needed to do - and how he would be following up.

How did I find my attorney? I asked a friend - I got a great referral. And for me that is one of the many lessons I walked away with - there are times you have to hire someone. When you do, get a referral from someone you trust and then make sure you are a 100% comfortable with who you pick - otherwise it is just money down the drain.




* One of the people who did not have a lawyer got asked about some particular form she didn't have. She told the court clerk that she didn't know how to fill it out. The clerk said, "Well it is your job to find out. When you are acting as your own lawyer it is your job to make sure everything is done correctly." Frankly, she was really snotty about it - but ultimately, she was right.


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