Spring Cleaning = Cash

I know what you are thinking, “This guy is crazy, spring is over!” ¬†Well, spring cleaning can come late for some people, especially procrastinators like me (and possibly you). ūüôā

When I talk about spring cleaning, I am specifically referring to selling some of the junk that you don’t use. As you are cleaning up around the house and digging in places that haven’t seen the light of day in over a year, you are bound to find some stuff to sell.

A few weeks ago, my wife and I decided to do a little spring cleaning ourselves. Needless to say, I was very surprised at the amount of stuff that I found that could net us some quick cash. Here is a quick list of some things I found (and forgot that I had) and how much they will net us:

  • Laptop¬†computer¬†– $200
  • Mac desktop computer – $100
  • Various textbooks – $200
  • Various software – $50

Doing that math, that adds up to over $500 that can be used towards our debt. Not too shabby for a days worth of cleaning!

So, now that you are soooo excited about cleaning and finding things to sell, how do you go about selling them? Well, here are a few options for getting rid of your junk and getting top dollar.

Amazon.com

Amazon.com is a great place to sell books, CD’s, software and more. I placed the textbooks and software on Amazon and sold the majority of it in a week. They get tons of traffic and people are always looking to get a great deal.

When I sell things on Amazon, I always list them for a lower price than anyone else in the same category (new, like new, good). For example, if I have a book that is like new and the lowest price in that¬†category¬†is $54.99, I will list mine for $49.99. I don’t really maximize my earnings but I can almost guarantee that it will sell FAST. That was my main motivation as I received the cash quicker and I got the junk out of the house faster.

The only thing that I don’t like about Amazon is the fact that they decide what to pay you for shipping. For example, if the buyer selects standard shipping, Amazon will reimburse you $3.99. That’s it. So, if you need to buy a bubble mailer and then ship the item across the country the cheapest way possible, you are more than likely going to spend in excess of $3.99.

eBay

eBay is a great place to sell larger more expensive items that can be shipped easily. I typically use them for smaller electronics (cameras, laptops, cell phones) and collectibles. I don’t really have any collectibles but some of you might. I will be putting the computer up for bid starting Friday. I’ve always had success selling on eBay and I typically yield better results than the average seller.

I’m not really going to tell you how to set up an eBay account, so here is a nice tutorial from eBay. Don’t be afraid to sell you items on the site as you can get GREAT results!

Craigslist

Craigslist is a site where individuals can list items for sale (just like the classifieds, except free) in a city near you. For example, I could list items for sale on a DC, Annapolis or Baltimore site. Having a local site makes it a great place to sell items that are just too large to ship. We have bought and sold several pieces of furniture on the site with great success. If you happen to find an old car during your spring cleaning, you can even sell that on Craigslist. ūüėČ

The only word of caution that I have is to just be careful. Make sure you call about the product first and ask for directions. You want to make sure you are going to be in a nice neighborhood. It’s also a good idea to take someone with you to check out items. You can never be too cautious!

Yard/Garage Sale

We don’t have enough junk (or a yard) to have a yard/garage sale but I imagine many of you do. These would be a great place to sell the odds and ends that aren’t good enough to make the cut on the other websites that I listed. A list of things to sell could be clothes, dishes, small appliances, etc. They don’t fetch top dollar but you can at least get something out of them. The main purpose in selling these items should be to just get it out of your house. I would take almost any deal if it meant removing it from the mass clutter that is my apartment.

Frugal Dad has a great post on how to have a successful yard/garage sale. The only other thing that I would recommend would be to have it when everyone else in the community is having one. You will get a lot more traffic if you plan it around that schedule.

Donate It

For all of the leftover things, you can donate them to charity. I typically just go to the local Goodwill store and drop the stuff off.

I know, you can’t really get “cash” for donating goods. However, you can get a tax deduction if you itemize on your tax return. Just make sure you get something in writing from an individual who works there detailing what you donated. You will also want to make a spreadsheet showing the fair-market-value of each item you donate.

Once again, the main goal in this section should be to just get it out of the house. If it’s in too bad of shape for even Goodwill, it’s time to just throw it away.

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I hope these tips help you get some quick cash to pay on debt!

Debt Update: Two Months Combined

Yeah, yeah. I know I’m a month behind. Doesn’t that make this more exciting though? ūüėÄ

Well, the last two months for us were full of financial surprises. We paid for a graduate class, had our tires replaced, blah, blah, blah. It seems to be getting a little old if you ask me. I just want things to go as planned!

Even with all of these “extra expenses” we are still able to pay all of our debts (at least the minimum). We just aren’t able to get that extra snowball going the way we would like. July is looking good but heck, it’s only the beginning of the month. What can I say, I’m not perfect.

This month I changed the graph up a little. You can now see what our actual payments are per month. They are listed as “Actual Payments”. The number below that one is the actual change in the balances for the month. By listing them that way, I can now see how much interest I am paying per month by subtracting the change from the actual payment amount. Let me tell you something, actually looking at how much interest I am paying makes me sick.

Here is a quick snapshot after the last two months:

Hopefully July will be much better!

Perfection Doesn’t Exist

Perfection is something that I thought could be obtained in some way. Actually, it almost caused me to quit writing this blog.

One of the reasons that I blogged so infrequently was because I was always trying to create the “perfect” blog post. Well, I’m here to tell you that perfection does not exist. It doesn’t exist in life, blogging and even finances.

“Once you accept the fact that you’re not perfect, then you develop some confidence.” ~ Rosalynn Carter

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to create the perfect blog post, have it quoted on various websites and have someone hand me a trophy (well, not really). You know what, that mentality caused me to not write at all! Pretty weird right? I wanted to be one of the best bloggers I could, yet I didn’t write. Makes a ton of sense! Seeking the unattainable caused me to not want to attain it.

Well, I am here to tell you that I am no longer seeking perfection. I won’t be seeking it with my writing or our finances. No more excuses. It’s just too stressful and unproductive. I’ve accepted the fact that I am not perfect and now I am going to build some confidence.

Enough about my life. So, how can you turn your finances around without seeking perfection?

Set Attainable Goals

If you have debt and finally come to the realization that it’s bad, you’re going to want to pay it all off in a hurry. Hell, when we first starting paying off our 150k, I was looking for the cure all medicine that could take care of the problem immediately. I wanted if gone, fast.

Unfortunately, you need to realize that there isn’t a magic debt elimination pill and it’s going to be a long and rough road. In order to make it easier, you need to set some attainable goals. Dave Ramsey tells you to list your debts from smallest to largest and then start working on the smallest of the bunch. That will allow you to reach certain financial victories much faster and it will give you some much needed confidence.

Reward Yourself Every Now and Then

When you do something awesome, reward yourself. I’m not talking about taking a trip to Hawaii here, but go out to eat with your spouse or catch a movie. My wife and I do this frequently due to the fact that we have so much debt. If we just sat on our asses all day every day watching our debt slowly go down, we would go insane. Sometimes you just need that interaction that getting out of the house does for you.

Another great tip would be to visualize the reward. If you have a special treat in mind, print out a picture and hang it on your fridge. Seeing it everyday will cause you to go that extra mile to save a few bucks here and there.

Follow People Just Like You

If I had to guess, I would say that most of you have some debt. It’s probably not 150k like us, but it feels like a lot nonetheless. Subscribing to blogs, going to Financial Peace classes and commenting on websites are great ways to get an extra boost in you financial plan. If you just sit on your butt and do nothing, you are doomed and won’t make any progress.

You’re doing the right thing subscribing to this blog. I hope that what my wife and I do financially helps you get through your troubles. Our ability to pay off debt should give you a ton of encouragement in your financial life. Just stick with it and you will see amazing results!

Where to Go From Here

I have been thinking a lot about writing lately and wanted to propose a slight change to some of the posts. I want to keep writing about money and debt but I also want to being to write about improving ones life and just winning in general. I don’t really want to push you away from the site so I want to leave it up to you. PLEASE answer the quick question(s) below and give me your feedback. You all are the reason I continue to blog and your opinion matters greatly to me.

A Life of Quiet Desperation

This article was written by Steven, author of Hundred Goals, a blog about achieving your goals while managing your finances.  Steven writes about traveling the world while completing a life list of 100+ goals including Riding in a Hot Air Balloon and Giving Away $100 to a Complete Stranger.

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.

-Henry David Thoreau, Walden, 1854

Deep inside us¬†is a smoldering desire for something more, something better, something…else.¬† We ponder¬†the things in our lives that could be different, how our lives could be more satisfying, if only…¬† We dream of following the ambitions in our heart, of throwing caution to the wind and just focusing on being alive in the moment.

It isn’t that our lives are¬†really that bad.¬†¬†We have a nice home, a job that pays moderately well, a satisfying relationship with our spouse and great friends.¬†¬†The children have everything they could ever need and there is always food on the table.¬† Life is good.

Life is good but you can’t help but wonder if it could be better, if you might be happier if only things had worked out differently.¬† What if you had followed your dream of becoming a veterinarian?¬† Sure, the money might not have been as good but maybe you wouldn’t feel like you have to force yourself out of bed each morning to get to¬†the office¬†on time.

It isn’t that life is really that bad.¬† You have a closet full of nice clothes.¬† A shiny new car is parked in the driveway (aren’t the neighbors jealous!?) and your new iPhone is the envy of all your friends.¬† Just look at what it can do! Life is good.

Life is good but you can’t help but wonder if it could be better, if you might be happier if only things had worked out differently.¬† What if you had followed your dream of helping underprivileged children?¬† Sure, that might have meant sacrificing some of the luxuries you have today but maybe you wouldn’t feel like your work has no value in the world.

It isn’t that life is really that bad.¬† Your kids have a great life.¬† They have everything you didn’t when you were growing up.¬† You know what it is like to grow up poor, having to go without nice things.¬† The last thing you want is for them to have to experience what you went through as a child.¬† The humiliation of having to wear old shoes on the first day of school.¬† Your kids deserve the best and that is exactly what you give them.¬† Life is good.

Life is good but you can’t help but wonder if it could be better, if you might be happier if only things had worked out differently.¬† What if you had followed your dream of starting your own business sharing your creative skills with the world?¬† Sure, that might have meant taking a risk and putting your faith in your ability but maybe your idea would have been a success and you could have been your own boss, free to control the direction of your company.

It isn’t that life is that bad.¬† It just could have been better.

The Root of Our Money Problems

We finally found the root of our money problems. Want to know what it is? According to my wife, it’s me.

When she said that in the car to me the other night, I laughed it off. But as I sat there and thought about it, she was absolutely right. I brought the most debt into the marriage and I probably would still be racking it up if I wasn’t with my wife. I was the most reckless with money before we got married.

But there are still things I do today that damage our finances. For one, I always seem to suggest eating out. Actually, my wife said “I was the problem” after I suggested grabbing something quick to eat. We have a ton of food at home and yet I always seem to want to eat out no matter where we are. What the heck is wrong with me? I really want to be debt free and yet I always want to spend.

I mentioned before that we want to still enjoy some “finer things” while getting out of debt. We would like to eat out once or twice a month and go to the movies occasionally. It just helps us from going insane.¬† However, I have taken the eating out to an extreme. If I had to guess, I would say we ate out about a dozen times in May. Most were the fast food variety but still expensive none the least. About 90% of those occurrences were my idea.

I guess you could say that I have been a big consumer for most of my life. I grew up on a family farm and started earning fairly good money (for a kid) by the age of 10. I did what most kids would do at that age with money. I spent it and I spent it ALL. However, I earned way more than most kids my age and I got to buy the more expensive items that many other kids only dreamed about or begged their parents for. Life was good.

What I guess I am trying to say is that old habits die hard. I would imagine that many of you are having this same problem. It’s hard to go from one extreme to the next and I’m finding that out that hard way. I once spent with wreckless abandon and now I am trying to pinch every penny. Life is hard.

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What would you say has been the toughest for you? Cutting spending? Setting up a budget? Opening up the lines of communication between you and your spouse?