It’s coming.

I just need to upload everything. That means I’ll be down for awhile. Don’t worry though, I’ll be back and I’ll be much better.

i <3 the goodwillSome of the happiest and wealthiest people have found a way to marry their hobby with their work. I love what I do during the day, but I have another hobby that doesn’t involve politics, education or alturism whatsoever… it’s junkin’.  Junkin’ is a pretty liberal term. So before you picture my butt hanging out of a trash can, let me clarify what I mean. I love to find deals on stuff I love at thrift stores or discount shops (like TJ Maxx, Loehman’s, or Nordstom’s Rack). It’s a hobby. I honestly spend most of my weekends searching for cool and valuable stuff. I’m sure you remember this though…

Last year I had a Come to Jesus moment two months into my 2008 enviro New Year’s resolution (to buy everything possible second hand). This was my way to be a quasi-consumer with a conscience. I spent more and more time at the Goodwill and found outrageous stuff. New Diesel jeans. Nanette Lepore jacket. Pearl necklace. New Dansko shoes. A lot of the time the stuff wasn’t my size so I’d put it back. Taking it to Buffalo Exchange never seemed like a good idea (because they rip you off) – but what if I sold it? That’s how S[ECO]ND RUN started.

What can I say, I have a gift. It’s pretty funny when I go with buddies. I’ll meet up with them an hour in and they’ll have old no name jeans and a stained top and feel pretty good. On the other hand, I look like I just walked out of Anthropologie. I go to the Goodwill for about two hours on Saturday and Sunday and find killer stuff. And I take my killer stuff and sell it on eBay. It’d be great if I didn’t have to use eBay because their fees are annoyingly high (9% plus insertion fee) – but the exposure is great. I upload stuff at least a few times a month, once a week when I’m on a roll (typically Sunday night using a seven day auction).

The upside is I’m sorta doing something that I’d already be doing – and it’s fun. A lot of people take second jobs that suck like retail or restaurants – no thanks. I look forward to shopping. The bad side is that it is very time-consuming, specifically cleaning the clothes, taking photos, measurements, and writing the description. It’s about 3-4 hours a week apart from the shopping.

s[eco]nd runThe major positive is the CA$H. It paid for my earnest money when I bought my condo last year, it is helping me pay off debt faster, and allowing me to have a little bit more fun (hello plane tickets). And, I can stop whenever I want. It’s not like I must do this. It’s all extra. I can live without it if I’m too busy or ill or on holiday. So, it’s a huge win for me, my budget, and I’m promoting my values (helping the Goodwill and recycling awesome clothes). I should say that I occasionally go to discount shops during super sales. For example, Loehman’s in Bellevue is having a 50% off clearance items sale this weekend. They sell awesome stuff (Marc Jacobs, Theory, Citizens jeans etc). I plan to go and see when I can find. Also, sometimes I go to consignment shops to see if they have anything on sale.

Here are my top eight tips:

  1. Buy high quality name brands that you know: I end up buying a lot of stuff that I do NOT want to sell. That sucks, but I know my market. It’s easier to sell that way.
  2. Carefully examine the clothes for stains, missing buttons, weird smells, broken zippers etc. (there is likely a reason why it has been donated)
  3. Look for stuff that will make lots of money: This will take time to figure out, but jeans and dresses sell better than t-shirts and shoes for example. Think about your profit-margin.
  4. Take REALLY good photos: I have a 10mp SLR and I take really nice shots with a nice background. I cover all angles and get close-ups of the tags.
  5. Use templates: It’s all about marketing. It should look cute. I use GarageSale which is a Mac program that costs $30. You can use Auctiva for free.
  6. Write cute descriptions: I’m not sure this works, but I think it does. It shows you are a good seller. Make sure you include measurements and content.
  7. Communicate: If you get a question, respond within 24 hours. Say thank you. This will REALLY boost your positive feedback and you need that, especially in the beginning.
  8. Be clear about shipping: there are benefits to offering free shipping, but I find printing postage with PayPal SO easy. I do that. And I always use Priority Mail just because the flat rate envelopes rule. It’s easy and you can shove A LOT in that envelope. People get their stuff fast. A tracking number is emailed to them. It’s easy. I’ve had one situation where a First Class shipping item didn’t show and it sucked.

According to investing guru Warren Buffett, U.S. stocks are a logical investment when their total market value equals 70% to 80% of Gross National Product.

A newsflash just in time for your impending tax refund.  It’s time to think about buying. Course he doesn’t say what he IS buying unfortunately.

Read the Fortune story here.


Girl, pay off debt.

Girl, build your emergency fund.

Girl, put it in your Roth IRA (the current market is sorta like Nordstrom’s Anniversary Sale only better).

I did a little research and found some scary gender gap stats from a Visa 2007 study. “Our research has found a dramatic gender and age gap when it comes to saving money. Women under 50 save far less of their tax refunds than other groups and this could have significant ramifications for their financial health.” The Visa survey shows that only 30% of women age 18 to 49 plan to put the money they receive from their income tax refunds into savings. In contrast, 40% of men in that age bracket plan to put their refunds into savings. And, ladies, let’s face it – the numbers would look much worse if it was 18-30.

Think of this as a test.
Are you a money lady?

I had to admit, I struggled. I thought of my roots and split ends. My really tense shoulders. All of the sales going on now. So, what did I do? Of course, I won’t get my refund until the end of this week. It forced me to pause and think about how I want to spend this. Then my stupid Amex card charged me for a late fee that I didn’t deserve and it reminded me how much I hate that card. So, I’m going to use it for that. I sorta can’t wait.

As my readers know, I haphazardly tracked my finances last month. I’m thinking of it as a trial run because I didn’t follow all my rules. Well, Mrs. Micah provided another nudge when she started her Where’s My Money Going Month.

So, here are my January results:

THE GOOD:
Credit card payment: OVER BUDGET $600 ($1800 total)
Extra income (thank you eBay): $900
AmEx charged a phony late payment. I caught it, disputed it and got the money back.
Organized! Saved all my receipts, used Mint, updated budget, used lil’ red book

THE BAD:
Fun money: OVER BUDGET by $213 (trip to DC)
Groceries: OVER BUDGET by $195 (I need to stop going to coffee and lunch)
Mobile phone: OVER BUDGET by $101 (largely due to work, most of which will be reimbursed)

THE UGLY:
Bottom line: OVER BUDGET by $209
(this was due to my plane ticket to Washington DC. My value fund is in deficit mode, which is not great, but I’ll pay it back)

I’m off to a great start for February:

  • My fun money is in my wallet.
  • I did my taxes ($1600 refund!).
  • I made $350 yesterday selling stuff.


Two of my favorite deals for you today…

40% off ALL Nau products using the code: OTGSPECIAL
24 Hour Fitness 2-year membership: $299 (no extra fees for real, $12 a mth)

January is almost over and I’ll update everyone on how I did vis-a-vis my budget at the end of the week.  I will say this month reminded me that implementing a plan is a lot harder than creating one. Also, I don’t know about you, but if I get disorganized and I EASILY slip into bad money habits. I struggled to manage my expenses and sort of switched between using the tech route and the traditional pencil/paper route. So, I guess I did a bad job of both. What can I say – it’s a work in progress.

The traditional route:

I tried to write down every expense as I incurred them. This was hard, and I have to say that I did a pretty awful job. One thing that I did do was buy a super cool Moleskine little planner notebook. One page is the week and the other is lined paper, so I’m writing my expenses/budget reminders on the lined side. This has been effective so far. I need to get better about writing down everything. I did save every receipt in an envelope I put on my fridge. This helped me to increase my own accountability. Also, you and sorta see the envelope begin to bulge, which makes you slow the spending.

The techy route:

I updated my excel sheet a few times during the month to better represent my real income and expenses. I don’t have a car anymore so I had to change that. Also, I added a monthly giving fund. I’m using this to contribute monthly to my three favorite charities. Updating my excel sheet helped me. I then took it and plugged it into Mint.com. WOW. Mint is a lot cooler than I remember. I plugged in my categories, budget, and set up email reminders. I’m also really excited that Mint recently added a new FREE iPhone application. I’m planning to spend a good portion of my February fun money an an iPhone, so this is exciting. The techy route is a little tricky for me because I spend so much time at work on a computer – so when I come home, I don’t want to sit in front of one and concentrate. I think the iPhone app will help in this regard.

So, here are three ideas to help me do this a little better:

  1. Continue to use my super cool moleskine to remind me to pay bills and write down all expenses over $20 (not part of fun money).
  2. Use ca$h for fun money. This month was a little tricky – I had family in town and took a trip to DC – so I wasn’t as organized as I would have liked.
  3. Actually use my monthly budget check in appointment, but change it to a morning slot. Right now it is 445 on Thursday. By that time, if I’m not at a meeting I’m exhuasted. I’m going to change it to Friday morning at 9 am. That way I’ll have time and energy to concentrate – and prevent overspending at the weekend.

As always, let me know what works best for you.

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