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Archive for January, 2008

DD's $100 Survey Check

February 1st, 2008 at 02:51 am

I post monthly about how much I've made doing medical surveys. Well, I'm not the only one in the house doing surveys. DW is signed up with mysurvey.com and gets many invites, some for quite a few points at a time. A few weeks ago, one survey asked if she would be willing to participate in a telephone interview for a $100 check. Of course, she said yes, though she was a little skeptical if it was legit. They did call and do the interview and the check arrived today! She also redeemed her points about a month ago for a $20 check, so that's $120 she has made so far from them. Not bad at all. Thanks Ima for getting us the info to sign up.

Opening new accounts for cash bonuses

January 31st, 2008 at 02:47 am

I've always resisted opening new bank accounts just to snag bonuses, but I think I'm going to give it a try. I just got mail from a local bank offering me $50 for opening a no minimum, no fee checking account. I figure I've really got nothing to lose by sticking $100 in their bank for however long I'm required to have it there to claim the $50.

I may even do the ING thing for $25. I don't know how many of those offers I've passed up over the years.

Does anyone else do this?

One Month of Ebay

January 27th, 2008 at 11:42 pm

It has been one month since I started selling on ebay again. I listed my first items on December 27 when they had a listing fee sale and my most recent auctions ended a short time ago. I figured that was a good time to tally up how I'm doing so far.

Just to review, I've been a collectibles dealer since 1986 and sold actively on ebay from 1997 until a few years ago. I even sold full-time back in 2000 when I was between jobs for a while. Then I got away from it but still have a basement full of stock to sell. So one goal for 2008 was to start selling again, mainly to get rid of stuff and free up space. Any money made will just be a bonus in the process.

So after one month, I have had 17 items sell and 6 items not sell. My sales have totaled $131.88. I haven't totaled up the net profit yet, but as I said, the main thing is that there are now 17 fewer items taking up space around here. I'd say that was a good month.

I normally do my listings on Sunday night, but I'm going to skip listing today because I don't want things ending next Sunday when everyone is tied up watching the Superbowl. I may list tomorrow night instead.

Of Broken Windows and Incompatible Printers

January 25th, 2008 at 01:59 pm

We were, unfortunately, awake about 5:30 this morning. I've had a cold and was all congested which got me up. That in turn woke DW. Just as we were lying there talking, we suddenly heard a loud CRACK. One pane of the window next to the bed had cracked. I got up and looked outside to see if anyone was out there and had thrown something, but it was deserted. Plus, it was the inside pane that had broken. The outside pane was still intact. So it couldn't have been a rock or bird or anything like that. It just broke on it's own. Now I have to track down somebody to replace the window. We actually have another pane downstairs that cracked a while back that we never repaired, so that's 2 windows that need replacing. $$$

In a previous post, I told of my great laser printer bargain last week. The printer sat untouched until last night when I finally hauled it up to the computer room to unpack it. I also went online and ordered toner cartridges on Amazon. I proceeded to rearrange the workspace to accomodate the new printer, carefully unpack it and set it up. Then I put the CD in to load the printer software only to discover that HP doesn't provide Macintosh support for this model. I checked their website and it said the same thing. So this weekend, the printer is getting repacked and returned to the store. So much for my bargain.

Places we could cut spending

January 23rd, 2008 at 07:55 pm

Even though I'm pretty good at giving financial advice and talking about what we all "should" be doing, I'm often as guilty as the next guy about not actually taking action and doing those things we talk about.

This has been on my mind a lot recently. DW isn't thrilled with her job and may decide to go back to SAHM status at some point. Even though most of her income goes to savings, some of it still comes home and gets spent. We already took a big cut when she went from her last job to this one without really changing much but losing the current income will eventually have some impact.

A year or so ago, I met with my insurance broker and he ran quotes for me and showed that we could lower our life insurance premiums by switching companies, but I never followed through so have maintained the more expensive policies.

Then a couple of months ago, I got an online quote from another auto insurance company that would have saved us about $36/month, but never did anything with that either.

Now, we've had the discussions in the forum about mortgage rates falling and we will probably benefit from refinancing again if rates fall a bit more in the coming months. Maybe by summertime, it will make sense and save us somewhere around $50/month.

Add to that the fact that the last payment on DD's braces is in May and we'll have an extra $150/month free from that.

So if I get off my butt and redo the life and auto insurance, refi the mortgage and add in the braces money, we could see over $200/month extra in our budget. So I guess that's my goal for this year.

Back from Lancaster

January 21st, 2008 at 01:36 am

We had a very nice weekend, got to relax some, had some good meals, discovered a great hotel (it's not new, but we've never stayed there before) and bought some needed and not-so-needed stuff.

I did get 3 pairs of pants and one dress shirt, which were the main items on my shopping list. DD and DW each got some clothes. At the new Disney outlet, we picked up a few items for our collection and DD got some clothes. We also picked up a nice Royal Doulton Winnie the Pooh piece. They had a lot of their Disney items on sale for 70% off which made normally pricey items much more reasonable.

We used our Isaac's restaurant gift card toward lunch on Saturday. And my mom treated us to a couple of meals and paid for some of our purchases. She's been enjoying her much lower cost of living since selling her house and moving into an apartment. She also has been not feeling well lately and is finally doing better so was really glad to be able to make the trip with us. We all got along very well this weekend with only a couple of minor issues. DD (our almost teenager) behaved herself very well which made the weekend much nicer for everyone.

Leaving town for the weekend

January 18th, 2008 at 02:46 am

We decided to do a weekend get-away tomorrow. We're heading to Lancaster, PA for 2 nights. We'll do some outlet shopping, eat at our favorite restaurant (one of my patients gave me a gift certificate for the holidays), go swimming (hotel has an indoor pool) and whatever else crops up. My mom and cousin are joining us, too. We'll leave tomorrow after we're all home from work and come back Sunday night.

Hopefully, I'll come back with a few new pairs of pants. That's the main thing on my shopping list.

My big bargain yesterday - New Laser Printer

January 16th, 2008 at 01:56 pm

Our daughter is having her Bat Mitzvah in September. My plan all along has been to print the invitations, the placecards, the thank you notes, etc. Rather than paying a professional to do that, I reasoned that I could spend about the same amount, or less, to buy a color laser printer, do the work myself, and be left with the printer when we're done.

So for about 2 years now, I've been scouting the color laser printer market. At first, they were running around $499 - out of my budget. Then they drifted down to $399 - better, but still too much. Finally, they started showing up for $299 and recently those have been going on sale for $249. Since we are nearing the time when I'll need the printer, I was getting ready to bite the bullet and buy one.

Last Sunday, one of the circulars in the paper had the model I've been looking at. They are selling a factory refurbished model for $69.99!! So off I went to the store last night, expecting to hear that they only got one and it was sold already. I was pleasantly surprised to see they had several on the shelf.

One is now sitting in our living room waiting to be installed. They were out of the cable I needed and I did not yet invest in the toner cartridges as I wanted to search the best price for those online - they are costly (over $330 for a set of genuine HP or about $260 for a set of compatibles). I also need to clear off the space where the printer will sit as they are fairly large.

The Best Way to Make Your Next Vacation Really Special

January 13th, 2008 at 02:30 pm

The Best Way to Make Your Next Vacation Really Special

If I had to give one single tip for folks to consider when traveling, it would be to think ďoutside the boxĒ and by box, in this case, I mean hotel. To the average traveler, hotels are the only accomodations they consider when planning a trip. Not that there is anything wrong with hotels - I spent at least 17 nights in hotels in 2007 personally - but there is a wide range of non-hotel options out there. You can rent condos, townhouses, single homes, timeshare units, ski chalets, cabins and even tree houses using the internet as your guide.

As many of you know, I go to Walt Disney World in Florida once a year. We havenít stayed in a hotel during those trips for many years. We have stayed in a variety of spacious condos, townhouses, single homes and timeshares often spending a fraction of what a simple hotel room would have cost us and getting far more in the process.

In 2006, we traveled to Stowe, VT and spent a week in a wonderful ski chalet with all the amenities of home and more (we donít have a deck and definitely donít have a large hot tub on it).

So how does one find these non-hotel properties? As usual, the internet serves as the ultimate source of knowledge (thatís what my family calls it). Start your journey at http://www.vrbo.com. VRBO stands for Vacation Rentals By Owner. It is a site where owners list homes for rent all over the world.

Do you want a tree house in New Mexico? Here you go: http://www.vrbo.com/7184

How about a luxury ocean-view condo in Maui?
http://www.vrbo.com/7999

Perhaps you want to throw another shrimp on the barbie, mate.
http://www.vrbo.com/58496

And hereís that chalet we rented in Vermont.
http://www.vrbo.com/45484

You will often find that renting a home is no more expensive than staying in a decent hotel, or even cheaper, plus it gives you a whole different experience of the area. One Holiday Inn looks pretty much like the next, but no two homes are ever quite the same. Rental homes are often located right in the middle of town so you get to live like the locals live, shop in non-tourist locations and dine where the full-time residents dine. That can also help you save money on your travels.

So the next time you are planning a trip to a new locale, or even one you have visited before, check out vrbo.com and choose to stay in a memorable place with some character and history and ambiance rather than some generic hotel where you might need to check the brochure at the front desk to remember what city you are in.

Attention Ebay Watchers - Just bid already!

January 12th, 2008 at 01:54 am

I currently have 6 items listed on ebay. Between them, they have 14 watchers but only 2 bids. Folks, if you are interested in the item, place a darn bid. Don't wait to see what everyone else is going to do. Be bold. Take action. Make the first move.

2 new CFL bulbs today

January 10th, 2008 at 11:34 pm

We have 2 light fixtures at our front door, 1 on either side. 1 bulb burned out a month or so ago and the other died this week, so it was time to replace them. I've tried various bulbs in those fixtures and found the Phillips Halogen bulbs seemed to last the longest. I went over to Home Depot today to buy a pair of those. After I found them, I looked at the CFLs to see how they compared. For the same price, I was able to get 2 CFLs instead. The Phillips bulbs are rated for 2 years of life at 4 hours/day. The CFLs are rated for 9 years of life at 3 hours/day. So assuming those estimates are accurate, the CFLs should last more than 3 times as long and use far less electricity. All for the exact same cost as the traditional bulbs. Sounds good to me.

$150/month "raise" in June

January 8th, 2008 at 10:55 pm

The last payment on my daughter's braces will be in May. That means that starting in June, we'll have an extra $150 month available. I'm trying to decide if I should put all of it towards savings or if I'll "splurge" a little and just put $100/month to savings and leave the other $50 out for whatever comes along. I'm kind of flip-flopping back and forth on that decision. Obviously, we aren't missing the money now, so putting in all in savings makes perfect sense. I'm working on getting our home equity loan paid off by the end of 2009, so I'll probably put it toward that, which will then free up another $218/month. At that point, I will probably start making some extra payments on the mortgage. I'd like to get that paid off by age 60, which means I need to shave about 3 years off the current repayment schedule.

Latest ebay update

January 7th, 2008 at 02:42 am

My latest auctions just ended a short time ago. So far, in my efforts to get back into doing the ebay thing on a regular basis, I have listed 11 items and sold 7, so about a 64% success rate thus far.

As per my plan, I also just listed 5 more items. I also opted to relist one of the items that didn't sell today with a lower starting price. It is a very nice piece, but happens to weigh about 4 pounds so postage is costly. I'm hoping the lower price attracts a buyer.

New Computer Desk

January 6th, 2008 at 12:48 am

My wife has been bugging me for a few months about rearranging our family room to put in a computer desk so that we could have a computer set up on the first floor. There were a few reasons for this. One, we use the internet constantly for all kinds of information, recipes, shopping, games, etc. and it is often a pain to have to run upstairs for every little thing. Two, our daughter is 12 now and spending more time online and we'd like her doing that in a common area so we can keep an eye on what she's doing. Also, when she is doing school work, we can be there to help her without running up and down the steps every time she has a question.

We finally found a desk we liked the other day and got it at staples.com. It was $30 cheaper online than in the store and shipping was free. It came yesterday and we assembled it this afternoon. I'm sitting at that desk typing this entry on our laptop which is now set up on the new desk.

This is only vaguely a financial topic, though I did post about how we saved that $30 by shopping online instead of in the store. Also, we often use the internet to save money in other ways and having even easier access to it can only help with that.

Now, we just need to buy a printer and a little desk lamp and we'll be all set.

First ebay sales have ended

January 4th, 2008 at 12:10 am

My first batch of 6 auctions ended today. 4 of 6 items sold for a total of $13.31. It isn't much, but 3 of the 4 items that sold are things that cost me nothing, so that's not so bad. Also, I do add a small handling fee to my shipping charge to help cover materials and auction/Paypal fees.

I did screw up one of the auction listings, though, and didn't discover my error until today. I somehow listed the wrong postage amount, undercharging by a few dollars. I'm going to try and repackage the item more compactly so it won't cost as much to ship. It will still be more than what I charged, but hopefully not too much over.

I have 5 remaining active auctions that end on Sunday. As of right now, 1 has a bid, 1 has 2 watchers and 1 has 3 watchers, so they'll probably sell. I plan to list 5 more items every Sunday.

I also used ebay to purchase some shipping supplies today. A lot of my items get shipped in 6x9 bubble mailer envelopes. I bought 12 at Staples a while ago but I'm going to need more. I checked Staples.com and they charge 13.98 for 25. I searched ebay and was able to get 25 for $10.10. For all you ebayers out there, anytime you need supplies - envelopes, bubble wrap, tape, etc., check ebay first. The prices can't be beat.

ebay update

January 2nd, 2008 at 01:46 am

As I posted earlier, one goal for 2008 is to start selling on ebay again, something I used to do a lot and have gotten away from.

On 12/27, I took advantage of the 10-cent listing sale and posted 6 items. Then on Sunday, 12/30, the day I traditionally do my ebay listings, I added 5 more items. So I now have 11 auctions going - 6 end on the 3rd and 5 end on the 6th.

As of right now, 3 items have bids. A couple more have watchers. So I'm up and running and on my way. I haven't really set any monetary goal for my sales. I'm really more interested in decluttering and freeing up some space in our basement. The money will be a nice bonus, though.