Posts Tagged ‘finance’

Make Open Enrollment Work For You

In Our Guest Appearances, Your Health, Your World on November 28, 2010 at 1:41 PM


Image Credit Kurhan



Are you happy with your health insurance plan?  Or, are premium amounts, deductibles and copays draining your bank account? Are you paying for services you don’t need or want, like smoking cessation classes or a life coach?  And do you really know the differences between  PPOs, HMOs and POS plans?

This is the time of year when many folks are selecting  new insurance plans and reevaluating existing ones. Recent changes to health care laws make it important that you understand new policies and existing ones.

Read my full article here at


Consignment Shops: The New Black for Back-to-School Shopping

In budget on July 12, 2010 at 10:26 PM

Have you shopped for “Back to School” yet?  My spending frenzy began last Friday, during freshman orientation.    My son is a college student this year, and between tuition, books, room and board, parking fees, non-essentials, essentials, and miscellaneous fees, my budget is on life support!  A $32,000.00 gorilla is on my back and come August 18Th, the ape better be fed.   

Last August, my quest to earn a few extra college bucks (and avoid a future stint in the poor house) led me to an often overlooked source for raising back-to-school revenue – Consignment Shops!

According to NPD, a global market research firm, 2009 saw a dramatic drop-off in back-to-school “spending intentions”.  Moms and dads are holding on to their hard-earned dollars; frugal living is vogue.  But, while traditional retail sales are declining, consignment shops are seeing huge increases in sales.

As we prepare to send our little, and not-so-little ones back to school, consider stimulating your economy by cleaning house.   Instead of giving away electronics, furniture and clothes, try consigning those items; you’ll be surprised at the amount of cash you earn.

Ten Q & As to Get You Started

  1. What is a consignment shop?  Think of a consignment shop like a garage sale, but without the typical headaches of dealing with bad weather, making change, haggling with customers and keeping an eye on shoplifters.  Traditionally, consignment shop owners sell your unwanted stuff with the understanding that the consigned items belong to you  until the items sell.
  2. What types of items can I consign?  Browse through home fashion magazines and think about trends; these are the types of items that sell quickly.  Stay away from trying to sell grandma’s console TV or mom’s disco boots from the 70s. 🙂
  3. Can I consign my daughter’s broken IPod?  In a word, no.  Items should be clean and in good working order.  Ask yourself if the item is worth more than five or ten bucks.  If it is, chances are someone will buy it.
  4. Do items have to be new?  No, gently used items are great.  Make sure that whatever you bring has all its pieces, and that clothes are clean, pressed and free of holes.  If you’re bringing large items like couches or bookcases, they shouldn’t be worn-out or scratched.  It’s also a good idea to test electronics before trying to consign them.
  5. I paid $125.00 for a pair of Cole Hahn shoes and won’t take less than $75.00.  Can I set the consignment price?  It depends on the shop.  Some owners work with you to set a selling price.  Shop owners know market prices, their customers and what types of items sell.  Work with the owner to come up with a price you are both comfortable with.
  6. How much commission does the shop receive?  Again, it depends on the shop.  This is a great question to ask before bringing in your items.  Some owners do a 50/50 split; others receive 25% or more.  If you decide to consign with a shop, make sure you understand all the terms in your contract, to include  payment policies.  Ask for a copy of your contract and a receipt listing all the items you brought in.
  7. How much money will I make?  Don’t expect to get rich; consigning items is an effortless way to make extra cash.  Sit back and enjoy the experience. 
  8. I have a lot of high-end items to sell.  Are there specialty shops that I can work with?  Do a bit of research before venturing out.  Some shops specialize in one or two areas like, baby items and maternity wear, or furniture and household accessories, haute couture, antiques and vintage or electronics and tools.  Find the store that has the niche you’re looking for.
  9. Can I consign anything? No, most shops won’t take food, alcohol, weapons or illegal items.
  10. What happens to my items that don’t sell?  Some shops allow you to take your items back; others may buy the items from you.  Check the terms of your contract.

A few more tips…

  • If you’re the entrepreneurial type try buying quality items for  low prices at thrift stores, garage and estate sales; then sale the items at your favorite consignment shop.  
  • Try shopping consignment shops for back-to-school bargains.  They’re a great budget-stretching resource for everyone.
  • Consignment shops are a great venue to sell and get exposure for your handmade crafts. 

While I haven’t earned enough cash to feed my pet for the year, I’ve managed to pay for Reid’s books and even a few bananas.  🙂     Thank God for scholarships!

Have you shopped at consignment stores?

What’s In Your Beach Bag?

In Your Books on June 20, 2010 at 10:04 AM

As you head out this summer to lounge poolside and on sun drenched beaches, don’t forget to pack a few great reads along with your sunscreen, towels, and beach balls. 🙂

Following, are a few suggestions to get you started.  Enjoy, and Happy Father’s Day to all the dads!

Jenniemae and James A Memoir in Black and White by Brooke Newman

This true and heartwarming story is about the extraordinary friendship between an illiterate but,  number savvy black maid and her employer, mathematician and friend of Albert Einstein, James R. Newman.

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

A heartwarming, heart breaking, and yet at times, funny tale of family, love, and hope told from a dog’s point of view.

In a Heartbeat by Leigh Ann and Stan Touhy

The extraordinary couple depicted in The Blind Side tells their remarkable story.

Live to Tell by Lisa Gardner

The lives of three women connect and intertwine in this suspenseful story as  secrets and sins from the past are reveled.

Total Money Makeover by  Dave Ramsey

Best selling author, and radio talk show host, Dave Ramsey shares financial advice and tips.  “The bedrock of his system is simple: work hard, pay what you owe and stay out of debt.”

What’s on your summer reading list?

Find Your Frugal Mojo

In budget, Your World on June 15, 2010 at 8:12 AM

Many folks are searching for smart and creative ways to stretch their hard-earned dollars while riding out this economic recession. 

Here are two snippets from budget-stretching articles we wrote that were featured on Inexpensively.comClick on the title links to read the full versions.

Organization:  The Key to Savings

Have you ever paid a hefty late fee because your mortgage statement was buried under heaps of coupons or pyramids of free sample packs of gum?

Or paid a fine for an overdue library book, simply because it was hidden under piles of BOGO ads from 2006? 

You’re not alone in your battle with clutter.

Disorganization clogs the pipelines of many homes. It’s frustrating, it’s expensive and it destroys household budgets. Studies have shown that 98% percent of moms are disorganized. Actually, I made that last part up; it’s probably more like 56. 🙂

Start With Baby Steps

It doesn’t make much sense to clip coupons and pour over weekly circulars, only to have your savings eaten up by late fees. Starting today, make a vow to stop wasting time and money, searching for coupons, invoices, cell phones and keys. Throw out those ancient magazines and piles of junk mail that occupy prime real estate on your office desk. Empty those overflowing trash cans and wastebaskets and stop playing hop-scotch with the heaps of catalogs sprawled across your office floor. Organization is the key to saving money and it’s really not as difficult as you might think…

Save More and Waste Less

Everyday living expenses can easily get out-of-hand.  Money spent on paper towels, single use cleaning supplies, carbonated drinks and similar household staples could be put to better use.

Follow these five  tried, true. and green ways to stretch your household budget.

1. Use Smart Products. Use multi-tasking products that save time and money.

  • For Body:  Look for foundations and moisturizers that contain sunscreen (at least 15 SPF), and shampoos with built-in conditioners.
  • For Home: Make your own, or use versatile cleaning products that work on windows, countertops, appliances, and mirrors.  Make your dollars work smarter by choosing products that are safe to use on the interiors of cars.

2. Turn On the Tap.  Put the kibosh on soda and other expensive drinks.  Next to air, water is the most important (and cheapest) element our bodies need…


In budget, Your Giveaways, Your World on May 31, 2010 at 8:57 AM

By: Jennifer Brown Banks 

Image Courtesy Carlos Koblischek


When most people think about ways to have more money, they immediately think of cutting back expenses or adding an additional income source. True?  

While these strategic measures will produce good results when used properly, there are other ways to build your bank account that don’t require a great investment of time or sacrifice.  

These small efforts won’t take away from your quality of life or your sanity either. 

As one man once wisely stated, “A penny saved is a penny earned.”  

With this in mind, here are a few ways to have more money with less effort!  

  • Don’t get “squeezed” by fees—Whether they’re the result of library fines for late items, credit card fees for late payments, or nuisance fees charged by banks for convenient ATM withdrawals, keep them to an absolute minimum. Little things add up quickly. For example, a while back ago I slipped up on the date to return some “free movies” that I lucked up on at my local library by just one day!  Twenty-four hours later translated into paying $12.00 in fines. Ouch. You can bet that won’t happen again soon. I could have bought the movies for less!  


  • Be attentive to scanner errors and oversights—Most people mistakenly assume that computerized processes can never be wrong. Not true. Even though the nature of the error may be of “human origin” like data input mistakes, they still happen. How does this affect you as a consumer? Scanner errors at the grocery store are more frequent than one might imagine. In fact, I have been able to reap the benefits of these mishaps many times. For example, Jewel Food Store has a price scan guarantee. Did you know that? If an item scans incorrectly you get it free. (This does not apply to alcohol or tobacco products.) The next time you’re out shopping, make sure that your items are being charged to you correctly. In today’s economy, every little bit helps.


  • Comparison Shop—Even when items are on sale, chances are, you might be able to get them somewhere cheaper. Of course you’ll never know if you don’t do your homework. Here’s something I discovered recently. It used to be that Aldi’s had the lowest prices across the board, as far as supermarkets were concerned. Not anymore. Items like catsup and cereal can be bought cheaper at your local Dollar Bills Store.  Always make sure to look for online deals and also the various “brick and mortar” sales advertised in Sunday’s edition of your local paper. Become an educated consumer to get the most bang for your buck! Remember, “Haste makes waste.”

Follow these timely tips and you’ll discover that there are little (almost effortless) things that you can do that will add up to BIG savings for you and your family. 


Jennifer Brown Banks is a veteran freelance writer, columnist and professional blogger.  Visit her blog  Pen and Prosper , and her column at .

eBay Basics: Learn How to Sell on eBay in 7 Easy Steps

In You, Your Guest Writers on May 10, 2010 at 10:51 AM

by Sandra Schmidt

Do you have extra items sitting around in your house? Or do you have a collection that you would like to get rid of? Unwanted items can make money for you on eBay. Do you want to sell on eBay but don’t know how? I am going to talk about the basics of eBay selling. 

Step 1 Research: The first thing that you should do is research what your item has been selling for on eBay. In the eBay search box, type in the key words that describe your item.  You may need to increase the number of words or change words until you find your item. Then check the box for completed items. Now you can see the prices that other sellers have received for the item. Pay attention to whether the item consistently sold high at auction or if sellers sold their items using a Buy It Now/Fixed Price. 

Tip: remember that you can change the sorting order of the items. On the right hand side of the page, right before the auction listings, there is a sort by box. You have a choice of sorting items by different criteria. I like to sort my items by “Highest first”. You can see it on the screen shot below. (Click image to enlarge.)


Step 2 Selling Fees: Now you should have an idea of a price range of what your item is worth. See how much you have to pay in eBay and PayPal fees. There are several sites that let you calculate how much your fees will be. The great thing is that you can play with the different options such as Fixed Price or Auction and see what the difference is in fees.

Here are my two favorite eBay calculator sites are:

Tip: remember that PayPal fees are based on total amount of sale which includes the shipping cost. 

Step 3 Evaluate: Now you know what you can expect to receive for your item and the fees that it will cost you when you sell the item. So you need to evaluate if your item is worth selling. Personally, I try to not sell an item that is worth less than $10. 

Step 4 Photos:  A good photo can help sell your item. You can a make a backdrop by covering a large box with a sheet. If your item has any defects then make sure to take photos of the defect. People want to see the damage for themselves. 

Tip: If you have a large amount of items, cover a smaller box with a sheet and set some items in front of box and other items on the top. See the example photo below. 


 Step 5 Shipping:  Before you list your item, you need to decide on your shipping method. Shipping costs have increased so much that an incorrect shipping amount can really decrease your profit. Find a box that your item will fit in easily with some room for packaging. Add your item and packaging then weigh the box. 

Tip: Flat rate boxes are great for small heavy items. You can get free Priority Mail boxes from the Post Office. 

Step 6 Return Policy:  eBay now requires that you state your return policy. There is a special section on the eBay selling form that will help you with your return policy. You need to consider if you want to accept returns or not.

Step 7 Sign up for PayPal:  Most people need a PayPal account in order to sell on eBay. According to eBay policy: “All sellers offer at least one of the approved electronic payment methods—PayPal, ProPay, Moneybookers, or Paymate—or accept credit card payments through their merchant credit card account.”

Now you have the basic elements to list your item on eBay. Just click on the “Sell An Item” and you will be able to start!

Ssandra Schmidt is a blogger and an advid lover and collector of Trolls.  To learn more about her and Trolls, please visit her site, World of  Troll Dolls .