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Archive for January, 2007

Crock Pot Cuisine

January 30th, 2007 at 04:35 pm

Rewind to Monday evening: The weather was forecast to be frigid the next day, and I knew I wouldn’t be home until after 6:00.
Sounds like a perfect opportunity to use the 'ol Crock Pot!

I wanted to try a new recipe-- my only criteria were that the meal be:

* Vegetarian (or easily adaptable to Vegetarian)
* Contained barley and lots of vegetables (wanted to use up both of these)

I found a lot of soup recipes online, but the only issue was that I didn’t want a soup that was basically just diced tomatoes, broth, vegetables and barley. Been there, done that—we needed a change. So, I was pleased to this recipe for Slow Cooker Creamy Vegetable Barley Soup.



It fit my criteria for ingredients, and the “creaminess” was a nice variation to an old stand-by. Another bonus was that the creaminess comes from skim milk and corn starch, not fattening cheese.

The recipe couldn’t have been any easier to prepare. I threw it all together last night in less than 5 minutes. I did make some changes to the vegetables in the recipe: I used frozen corn, frozen green beans, 2 peeled diced potatoes, garlic and a can of diced tomatoes with chilies in lieu of the recommended vegetables. I also omitted the parsley.

The end result was tasty and filling. It’s not something I’d enter in a cooking contest or request on my birthday, but for a frugal, quick, and healthy mid-week meal, it will be on my “REPEAT” list.

In the future, I’d like to cook more with barley. It’s a great source of soluble fiber, and a 1 pound bag costs on $0.49. Any recommendations?

Selling Coupons on eBay

January 29th, 2007 at 03:40 pm

Inspired by this post at The Simple Dollar, I figured I'd try something new (to me) and attempt to sell some coupons on eBay.

I can't compete with the coupon Divas who can assemble a lot of 25 Huggies coupons for auction, but without much hassle, I was able to scrounge up 25 restaurant coupons from 4 different restaurants (UNO Bar & Grill, Olive Garden, Arby's and Long John Silver) sitting around the house.



I started with bidding at $0.99 + $0.39 shipping. The auction won't end for another week, but I'm curious to see what happens. Worst case, I'll be out $0.20 for the insertion fee.

Has anyone tried selling (err, shall I say giving away coupons and charging for labor) on eBay before?

Understanding eBay Relisting Fees & Challenge Addition

January 29th, 2007 at 07:52 am

I mailed the second item I sold on eBay. After deducting the various fees, I net $7.42, which I will add to the Challenge.

Old Total: $531.36
+ eBay sale $7.42
------------------------
New Total: $ 538.78

After reviewing my eBay invoice to calculate my exact profit, I was confused as to why the insertion fees for the sold items were credited back to my account.

A little further investigation led me to the explanation that if you list an item on eBay and it doesn't sell, you are eligible for a credit of the insertion fee if you re-list the item within 90 days AND the item sells the second time around. Since both of the items I sold were re-lists, eBay credited the insertion fee back to my account. This policy holds true even if you re-list at a lower price the second time (as I did).

If the item(s) do not sell on the re-list, you are out of luck and pay the insertion fee(s) again.

You can read this policy in full detail here.

Challenge Addition

January 27th, 2007 at 09:33 pm

I made $40 babysitting tonight. Once again, I'm exhausted (the parents stay out late and the kids can stay up until they get home!), but this babysitting gig has been a great way to add to the Challenge.

I do feel a little bad leaving Mr. Bean home alone every Saturday night. I've left tomorrow open all day to spend time with him since I spent most of today cooking (for my personal chef job) and babysitting.

Old Total: $491.36
+ $40 babysitting
--------------------------
New Total: $531.36

I received payment for the other eBay item, but I still need to figure out the actual shipping cost before I can add it to the Challenge.

Guten Nacht.

$10 Dolla Drama

January 27th, 2007 at 06:34 am

A few months ago I received a letter in the mail from the brick & mortar bank where I have my checking account. The letter stated that if I completed 2 automatic bill payments by 12/31/06 I would receive a $10 bonus award.

The only bill I pay each month is my personal credit card-- Mr. Bean takes care of the rest. I already had my credit card set up to automatically deduct from my checking account, but I figured I could do the reverse for 2 months and get the $10 bonus.

The $10 bonus was never deposited. I called the bank's 1-800 number and waited while the CSR researched the situation. He politely informed me that this offer must have come from the local branch and to contact the local branch to get the $10.

I went to my bank, and in typical fashion, the teller (a sarcastic little 20 year old) doesn't know what to do, so but says, "Well, if you are so hard up for $10, I'll call to the main branch and see what they know". He calls the main branch, they tell him just to put $10 in my account. The teller does so, but says, "Ok Beanie, I deposited the $10, but don't go stealing any more money from me." Granted, I know this little doofus was trying to be funny, or flirt or whatever, but I was annoyed. It was unprofessional of him to joke with me like that. I had to bite my lip and to refrain from saying,....well, I’ll take the high road and refrain from writing what I refrained from saying.

Fast Forward 3 days:

Last night I was reconciling my account in Quicken (I do this manually and not through the automatic download option), but I couldn't quite figure out why my checking account was off when all the transactions seemed to be present.

Finally, I noticed that annoying little teller DEDUCTED $10 from my account rather than DEPOSIT it.

I guess I'll be going back to the bank. I'm going to go on the same day and time so I can deal with the same little twit again. If he gives me any lip, I'll be ready to give it right back to him!



eBay / Half.com $$ for Challenge

January 26th, 2007 at 07:51 am

After deducting the actual shipping and various fees, I made $2.51 on the Half.com sale and $3.13 on the eBay sale. I’m still awaiting payment on the second eBay sale.

I've learned that I need to be careful when shipping. I used my own padded envelope (cost $0.50) to mail one of the items today. It ended up cheaper to mail it Priority Mail, so I could have used a Priority Mail envelope at no extra charge. Lesson learned: Don't assume First Class will be cheaper than Priority!

In keeping with my rules, I’ll deduct $0.40 for the insertion fees of the eBay items that did NOT sell. In the mean time, I’ll add $5.24 (total of above items minus insertion fees of unsold items) to the Challenge. I’ll update again once the second eBay item is paid for.


Old Total: $486.12
+ $5.24 eBay and half.com sale
-------------------------------
New Total: $491.36

Clothes Shopping Fix!

January 25th, 2007 at 08:39 pm

Only 2 / 4 of my items on eBay sold. Neither is a big ticket item (a pair of shoes and a pair of jeans), but it feels good to get them out of my closet; not to mention the few dollars I'll make in profit.

I'll add the money to my $20 Challenge after they get mailed so I can calculate the exact profit. A paperback book I had listed on Half.com also sold today.

Motivated by the great Goodwill finds I've read about on Savings Advice, I made my second sojourn earlier this evening. The first time I went I was a little overwhelmed- the place was a little disorganized. Thursdays are 15% off for students and senior citizens so I thought I'd take another look.

My timing was great, because they were having an unannounced sale of 50% everything in the entire store today - Sunday. I thought the selection and organization seemed better than my last trip, too. I ended up buying a nice sweater (originally from Express) and a pair of cords (originally from old Navy) for a grand total of $5.49!



I wasn't in dire need for new clothes, but it's fun to splurge on some fun stuff without breaking the bank! I might go back this weekend when I have a little more time to look around and see if I can make any speculative purchases for sale on eBay. It seems difficult to judge what's going to sell on eBay, so this might be a little "risky" from a money making perspective-- if you can call Goodwill speculation risky!

NYT: Barons Before Bedtime

January 25th, 2007 at 12:43 pm

I have 4 eBay auctions ending tonight, so this article in today's NY Times made me chuckle. I may be 10 years older than these kids, but I think we share some common virtues! Ever since I started selling on eBay, I find myself looking at EVERYTHING in our house with a more critical eye!

My favorite quote:

Bradley, the eBay maven, has discovered his own source of passive income: books in his younger brother Justin’s room. “If I get into a selling mood,” he said, “I will look around the whole house for things to sell. All over my brother’s room there are books that we have never read just lying around.”

He has put Justin’s “Hardy Boys” books on eBay three times, he said. And each time Justin goes online and takes them off.

I'll report back on what sold in my auctions later today.

$40 for Challenge

January 24th, 2007 at 09:15 pm

I babysat again tonight and made $40-- of course, it goes to the Challenge:

Old Total: $446.12
+ Babysitting $40
---------------------------
New Total: $486.12

It's great to see the Challenge total getting up there, but I'm exhausted! I'm off to bed-- maybe I'll dream of having only one job at a time!

KIVA: Make a Loan, Change a Life

January 23rd, 2007 at 07:29 pm

Microlending is the process of giving small loans, typically under $200, to individuals typically rebuffed by large lending institutions.

Economist Dr. Muhammad Yunus and his Grameen Bank were awarded the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize for their (dare I say, revolutionary?) use of microcredit.

Even Oprah had him on her show to talk about microlending.

If microlending is good enough for a Nobel Peace Prize and Oprah Winfrey, then it's certainly good enough for me!

I find the whole microfinance idea appealing on so many levels, so I was really excited to find out there's an easy way for everyday people like you and I to participate though the non-profit Kiva.org.

To quote from the Kiva web page:

"Kiva lets you connect with and loan money to unique small businesses in the developing world. By choosing a business on Kiva.org, you can "sponsor a business" and help the world's working poor make great strides towards economic independence. Throughout the course of the loan (usually 6-12 months), you can receive email journal updates from the business you've sponsored. As loans are repaid, you get your loan money back."

Intrigued? Check it out yourself. You can loan as little as $25 (these are interest free loans). A lot of us have been very fortunate in our lives. It's nice to be able to lend a hand to someone else.



Additions to the Challenge

January 21st, 2007 at 01:00 pm

Of the four items I had up for auction on eBay, only 1 item sold. The auctions ended on Thursday-- the same day eBay was running a 1-day special of $0.20 insertion fees, so I re-listed the unsold items at a lower price. Hopefully things will go better this time.

I thought it might be interesting to break down the costs associated with an Ebay sale. My item sold for $6.99 + $8.50 S&H. I always do a flat rate shipping cost. When I buy things on eBay I like to know the shipping cost before I bid, so I figure other potential buyers might be the same. Typically I end up making a small amount on the shipping, but the buyer for this particular was on the opposite coast from me and the actual shipping was $0.50 more than I anticipated.

Ebay Sale Price: $6.99
=+S&H $8.50
--------------------------------------
Buyer pays: $15.49
eBay insertion fee: -$0.35
Final Value fee (5.25% sale price) -$0.37
PayPal Fee: -$0.75
Actual Shipping Cost -$9.00
--------------------------------------
My profit +$5.02

For the purposes of the Challenge, I’m also going to subtract the money I spent to list the 3 other items that did not sell. The cost to list those items was $1.32, so I’ll add $3.67 to the Challenge. Not big money, but it cleared something out of my closet that I don’t wear. I had tried selling it to a used clothing store and they were not interested, so at least it’s gone and I have a few more bucks for the Challenge.

I’m subtracting the lost money because this is a Challenge, and I expect to win some endeavors, and lose others.

Last night I babysat for the same family that I sat for on Wednesday and made $50. That will also be added to the Challenge.

Old Total: $392.48
+eBay Sale: $3.67
+Babysitting $50.00
-----------------------------
New Total: $446.12

Positive review of Swim-Outlet

January 20th, 2007 at 12:25 pm

I recently made my first purchase from Swim-Outlet.com. Bathing suits can be ridiculously expensive-- in a sporting goods store, most suits will start at $45.

At Swim-Outlet.com I found a nice selection of women's competition suits (ie. suits you wear for swimming laps) for as low as $19.99. Granted, I might not be so keen to purchase a bathing suit online if I were looking for a glamorous 2-piece for lounging on the Riviera or for entering a beauty contest, but competition suits are usually full coverage suits that can be fitted with your bust, hips and waist measurements.

I will admit that the suit I ordered was a little small, but all I needed to do was mail the suit back to the distributor (the cost for me to mail the suit back was less than $2) and they sent me a larger size and waived the shipping charge. Total turn around time was less than a week!

If swimming is part of your New Year's fitness resolution, I recommend checking them out. They also sell goggles and other swimming fitness equipment.

Babysitting $Moola$ for the Challenge

January 18th, 2007 at 07:07 pm

In an attempt to find new income streams for the $20 Challenge, I decided to sign up with a local online service that matches college-aged babysitters (I live in a college town) with parents looking for child care. It's free for sitters to register, but parents must pay a fee to look through sitter profiles. It's an interesting idea for any aspiring entrepreneurs!

I was contacted by a family looking for a babysitter every Wednesday and Saturday night for their 3 kids, ages 6,9,12.

Last night was my first night. The kids were great and the parents were equally nice. They pay $10 / hour, so I came away with $25 which I'll add to my Challenge.

Old Total: $367.48
+25 babysitting
-----------------------
New Total: $392.48

I was really pleased with the rate they offered. $10 / hour is about what babysitting is "worth" for me, so it was great to have them offer it right off the bat. If it had been less, I'm not sure if I would agree to this being a regular job. I'm not saying that parents should pay babysitters $10 / hour (It seems like a night out could get awfully expensive at this rate!), but $10 / hour is about what my time is worth FOR ME to give up every Wednesday and Saturday night. Another factor that might contribute to their offer is that I'm committing to a regular schedule and I drive myself out to their home which is ~ 7 miles from the campus area. Many college students don't want to give up Saturday nights or don't have a car.

I remember babysitting for $2.50 / hour in high school and $5 / hour in college. For those of you with children, what do you pay a babysitter?

Thinking about Selling on eBay? Reason to Start Today!

January 18th, 2007 at 08:07 am

If you've ever considering selling on eBay, today's a great day to jump in. For today only (January 18), eBay is offering $0.20 insertion fees.

Before you create your listing, I highly recommend reviewing the fee schedule to avoid creating an expensive listing (tip#1: only list in one category- otherwise your fees nearly double).

Happy selling! I actually have 4 auctions ending today, but I might consider listing a few more things later today to take advantage of this special.