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Back From Boston

March 12th, 2007 at 03:38 am

I was in Boston for a short time early this week for a meeting. I've been to Boston a number of times, but this trip seemed especially thrilling since we currently leave in such a small town. I packed my suitcase with goodies from Trader Joe's. I love that place!

My babysitting job is on hiatus this week (the kids are on vacation) and my personal chef client also informed me that they won't need me for an indefinite period of time. She's having a scheduled C-section this week and expecting a lot of help and visitors. I sort of anticipated something like this. I'm looking forward to the break from all the cooking, but I'll miss the money.

Lucky Me! $20 investment is now $77.43

February 16th, 2007 at 04:40 pm

Sometimes you just get lucky. I need to remind myself of this situation when I start feeling down on myself for losing money on silly things-- like returning a library book late or forgetting to use a coupon. Or that $100 speeding ticket.

Back in December, I read this post at MyMoneyBlog about ShareBuilder deals. I had never purchased stock, but figured I might as well throw in $20 and give it a try.

I donít have a Costco Membership, but I was able to use some of Jonathanís advice to finagle a great deal.

This is what I did:

1.) I went to to see if they were offering a rebate. Although the eBate is no longer valid, at the time they were offering a $20 eBate for opening a ShareBuilder account plus a $5 eBate for new members.
NOTE: For those unfamiliar with eBates, itís a shopping portal that offers cash back if you purchase via their portal. Membership is free. If you use this link to become a member and eventually buy something, both you and I will get a $5 check.

2.) After I signed up for eBates, I followed their link to ShareBuilder. Once on the ShareBuilder site I used the coupon code ďHIGHER50Ē when opening my account and transferred $20 from my checking into the ShareBuilder account. I didnít read all the details about the HIGHER50 code, but it mentioned something about getting $50, so I figured Iíd give it a try. I knew I already had my initial investment returned (+$5) through eBates.

I wasnít ready to buy stock yet, so I just let the money sit in Sharebuilder for a few weeks while I thought about what to do next (well, OK, Iíll be honest, it was more like I let the money sit there while I put off thinking about what to do next). ShareBuilder puts the money in a money market so you can actually earn some interest while you think / procrastinate.
NOTE: HIGHER50 is expired, but I believe you can currently get a similar deal with the code SHARE50 or TVSB50

3.) I fully expected to have to pay the $4 / trade fee when I finally got around to buying stock, but in mid-January I got an email from ShareBuilder reminding me that my 2 free trades would be expiring at the end of the month. Two free trades? Who knew? I do not know how I got these 2 free trades. Maybe it was part of the HIGHER50 code, maybe it was a promo. Like I said, I think I got lucky this time around.

4.) On January 17th, I purchased 1 share of Gentiva
(GTIV) for $19.40. I was not charged a trading fee and the remaining balance ($0.60) sat in the money market.

5.) Today, I got an email from ShareBuilder informing me that the $50 from the HIGHER50 code has been placed into my ShareBuilder Money Market. I checked, sure enough it was. In addition, my 1 share of Gentiva is now worth $21.78 (+12% since I purchased it).

So in summary, my initial $20 investment turned into $77.43:

$21.78 (current value of Gentiva stock)
$25 eBate
$50.65 in ShareBuilder Money Market (includes $50 coupon code bonus + $0.60 left over from initial investment + $0.05 interest).

I plan to re-invest the $50 bonus this weekend. I donít expect to get rich with this, but itís been a fun get my feet wet and take an interest in the stock market.

Iím not going to add any of this to my $20 Challenge since technically this whole ordeal began in December.

50% off eBay Insertion fees- TODAY ONLY

February 14th, 2007 at 02:28 pm

eBay is offering 50% off insertion fees for today only.

If you're like me and stuck home in snowy weather, today is a perfect day for decluttering!

I'm trying something new with an item I'm currently selling on eBay. I listed it much lower than the anticipated selling price.

So far, 11 people are watching and one bid has been made. The auction still has ~3 days.

I tried this tactic to:
1.) save myself a little $$ on the insertion fee, and
2.) drum up interest in the item

It will be interesting to see if it works!

Selling Coupons on eBay

January 29th, 2007 at 11:40 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?

NYT: Barons Before Bedtime

January 25th, 2007 at 08:43 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 Justinís room. ďIf I get into a selling mood,Ē he said, ďI will look around the whole house for things to sell. All over my brotherís room there are books that we have never read just lying around.Ē

He has put Justinís ďHardy BoysĒ 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.

Babysitting $Moola$ for the Challenge

January 19th, 2007 at 03:07 am

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 04:07 pm

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.

Money that DOESN'T talk

January 14th, 2007 at 12:53 am

Hereís an interesting article in the New York Times Sunday Styles section concerning womenís use of cash to hide purchase from their husbands and partners.

"MEN certainly arenít above treating themselves. But the difference, psychologists say, is that men are more likely to be open about buying an iPod or a $2,500 case of 2003 Ch‚teau Pavie for their wine cellar, even if it leads to an argument. ďIn my experience, when men make money, they assume it is theirs,Ē Dr. Potash said. ďWomen, even if they earn their own money, sometimes feel compelled to ask permission to buy things.Ē

Although I canít relate to a $2K handbag or a $250 bra, as someone who tracks credit / debit / check purchases to the cent but rounds all cash purchases up to the nearest dollar, I have found myself scraping together change for things like a latte so that I donít have to record it in Quicken (even though my Quicken records are only seen by myself). Talk about that for abnormal psychology!

Brainstorm: How to Make More $$

January 13th, 2007 at 04:31 am

How can I find new income streams for my $20 Challenge?

What I'm already doing:
** Perusing the online classifieds for the occasional odd job, like leaf raking, pet sitting
** Selling on / Ebay / Local Classifieds / Plato's Closet Used Clothing
** Registered in a database of local college aged (err, and slightly older than college aged) babysitters [I'm actually meeting my first family on Wednesday for a regular Saturday night job]

Things I'm contemplating (in descending order of likelihood):
** Seek out other local consignment stores to sell clothes
** Bring stuff to my mom's garage sale this Spring (I don't have enough for my own)
** Teach nutrition classes at the YMCA (I'm already on their list)
** Keep an eye open for research studies I'd qualify for
** Ask for a raise in my Personal Chef job
** Lend through

What I could do, but I'm not going to (I'm looking to save money / make money, but I'm not in personal debt. If I had personal debt, I might re-evaluate)
** Get a formal part-time job with regular hours
** Donate plasma (I'm already a regular blood donor with the Red Cross)
** Expand my Personal Chef clients (one family is exhausting enough!)

Any more suggestions??

Ebay and results

December 28th, 2006 at 03:38 am

I hope everyone had a relaxing and enjoyable Holiday! Mr. Bean and I spent some time with family in another state, but we're now back at our own home. While visiting my parents I took a look with a critical eye around my childhood bedroom (as well as at the gifts given to us by Mr. Bean's father-- he owns a boutique uses the excess inventory as gag gifts) for potential Ebay items. I found a few possibilities, but decided to run the numbers on my eBay debut earlier this month to see just what my profit margin looked like.

In my first attempt as an eBay seller I listed 3 items in a 7-day auction (in mid-December 2006):

Item #1: NWT (new with tags) shirt: no bids: Cost to list: $1.10
LOSS: $1.10

Item #2: Gently Worn Merrell Shoes: Sold at the Buy it Now Price of $24.99 + 7 S&H
Cost to list + Commission: $2.41
+ actual shipping = $4.80
(Net expense of sale) = $7.21
Profit: $24.78

Item #3: Insect Paperweight (a 2005 Xmas gift from FILís shop): sold at auction fro $3.50 + $3.00 S&H
Cost to list + Commission + PayPal Fee: $2.07
+ actual shipping and padded envelope= $2.36
(Net expense of sale) = $4.43
Profit: $2.07

TOTAL eBay income: $25.78 was much more profitable for me. I sold 6 books (including one $50 textbook). After shipping and commissions, my net gain was $48.43.

After analyzing the results, I will continue to try to sell items on eBay, but I will be careful when creating my listing to minimize fees (something I failed to do this first time around). I also think I will be judicious in what I sell and focus only on larger ticket items. Obviously the shirt was a loss and the paperweight was barely worth my time.

I am an avid reader, but donít have a lot of room for books, so I will continue to use to thin out books I donít plan to read again. When shipping items, itís best to use small boxes lying around the house, but when boxes are unavailable, I found the best place to buy padded envelopes is the Dollar Tree where they are sold in packages of 2 envelopes for $1.00.


December 14th, 2006 at 03:06 am

One of my items on eBay sold at the 'Buy it Now ' price of $24.99 + $7 S&H. I'm so pleased! I might have been able to get a better price had it just gone through auction, but I 'm happy to have the sale. The item up for bid was a gently worn pair of women's Merrell shoes. My research indicated that shoes of this type are a popular eBay item, so I had a feeling someone would bite the 'Buy it Now' price. I've had the shoes for ~2 years and never really liked them, so I won't miss them one bit. I walk past the Post Office on my way to campus, so mailing won't be a hassle, either. I can see myself getting into this!

For any other ebay neophytes out there, let me assure you the process is easy. I downloaded the free Turbo Lister Software and was able to figure it out without having to read the instructions, but if you're not terribly familiar with computers / software I'm sure the tutorial does an excellent job.

I would recommend reading the fee schedule before you list, including all the optional feature fees. I failed to thoroughly do this. I now realize I could have saved myself some money by NOT listing a subtitle. The pricing list will also guide you in number of photos you can post for free and related issues.

After I mail the package and all the fees are charged, I'll post on just how much (or how little) I'll actually make in the end.

Ebay Debut / Mexican Pizza

December 13th, 2006 at 03:14 am

I listed 3 items on ebay this evening. I was unaware that there are fees just to list items (I was under the impression that you only incurred fees if your item sold).

I paid less than $5 to list the items, so I'll chalk this first run up to a learning experience and then re-evaluate if ebay selling is worth my time. I also listed a number of books on -- I like that there are no charges to list and that your items can stay listed as long as you like.

In other news, I made another homemade pizza tonight. Tonight's pizza was Mexican themed. It turned out surprisingly good considering the idea evolved from a desire to use up random ingredients. I used the same crust recipe (posted on 11/14), but I covered the crust with a black bean dip (free after coupon), then topped with salsa, then added a little Gimme Lean Soy Sausage (browned first in pan), diced grape tomatoes, and cheddar cheese.

Monday and today were no spend days / no drive days.

First Foray into eBay

December 12th, 2006 at 02:20 am

Prompted by this post at MyMoney blog, I decided to try selling some stuff on eBay. We live in a small house, so periodic de-cluttering is a necessity!

Unfortunately, my camera batteries died just as I got started. Fearful of losing the selling gusto, I listed three books on I've never sold anything on eBay or, so I'm curious to see how it goes. One thing I couldn't find was how long my items stay listed on Does anyone know??

Pleasant Surprise at the Used Book Store

December 8th, 2006 at 02:55 am

Spending has been pretty limited this week. I thought it was "no spend" until I looked in Quicken and was reminded that I paid $8.60 Monday when I picked up dry cleaning and also ordered a Xmas gift online Monday. Monday - Wednesday were also "no drive" days (I aim for these like "no spend" days).

I took two books to the used bookstore today, one of which was a sports memorabilia book. She wasn't going to take it until I said, "There are people selling it on eBay", which is partially trueÖ. I saw one on eBay for $11.99 but the auction had ended without any bids. She seemed very reluctant but after typing the title into her computer (she must use some book pricing database), I heard her say, "Oh!" then said she's give me $25 store credit for both. I wonder how much it was worth... it must have been fairly substantial since the other book couldn't have been more than a few dollars. Typically I take the cash when selling books, but this particularly store has stopped offering cash until Spring. They recently purchased a collection for $4000 and need the cash. Perhaps I could have sold the book on my won, but itís all water under the bridge (or store credit in my pocket)now.

What's my time worth?

November 30th, 2006 at 12:45 am

After setting up a budget for December and analyzing November's expenses, I determined that I really need to increase my income. Because I'm a grad student, negotiating a raise is out of the question, and finding ways to supplement my income is the way to go.

So, the timing was perfect when I received an email this morning from our departmental secretary saying that the YMCA is looking for qualified individuals to teach a nutrition / wellness course developed by a prominent HMO in the area. I sent off a letter of interest and resume this afternoon and quickly received an email back asking a few more questions about my availability, but no mention of the pay. I don't anticipate the pay to be anything fantastic, but since the sessions are taught in the middle of the afternoon, it will be disruptive to my schedule. I probably have the flexibility to teach an afternoon class, but I'm trying to determine what the job is worth to me BEFORE I know what the pay rate is in effort to make the most rationale decision.

I always bike / walk to campus but would need to drive to the classes. Since the classes are in the middle of the day, this will require me to bike home and get the car (hence losing time, approximately 30 minutes round trip) or drive to campus and pay to park in a garage (hence losing moneyóIíve never used the garage so I donít know how much it costs, but will check into this!). You can probably guess I'm more inclined to do the first. So, what's my time worth? Sadly, I think my skills and expertise are worth a lot more than what I'd agree to do it for (I'm too shy to share my final number), but when income is low and opportunities are limited, it may be time to settle for less.

Have wheels, will drive!

November 21st, 2006 at 05:38 pm

If you travel solo or as a couple for the holidays, check to see if your community has a ride board. Many communities have ride boards, especially those near college campuses, but they often go under-utilized.

I posted a free ads offering a ride from our locality to the city where Mr. Bean and I are spending Thanksgiving. The good news is I've already received two inquiries. We can only fit two passengers, so this is perfect.

I find itís best to state upfront how much you expect for gas and expenses. I also find it's best to state an exact amount, rather than "you pay gas and tolls", to avoid any awkward conversations. This week, weíre traveling about 250 miles each way (500 RT) and I request $50 per rider for the round trip. Many drivers mention splitting expenses, but I feel that Iím providing the vehicle, paying the insurance, and driving, so the riders can pay for the gas. Given that there are limited buses and planes in and out of my area, Iím sure that my price is still much cheaper than the alternatives óand I provide door to door service!

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