Friday, January 25, 2013

shelf space

In my last post I talked about things I can do to reduce the money I spend every month. I haven't completed all of the tasks but I already see a difference in my cell phone bill.
The things in my list were pretty passive things, as saving money goes. It doesn't take a lot of willpower once you've already made the call to reduce a bill.
Something I've been working on that is also somewhat passive is selling old books online. The website I use is half dot come. I'm quite happy with it. I simply input the ISBN of the book, write a brief description of the book's condition, and then input a price. The website even suggests a price range based on how that book has sold recently. When you sell a book, the site sends you an email alerting you what has been sold and the deadline for shipping. Once on the site you can choose to use their links to pay for shipping. You will need paypal for that last I checked. If the book is a simple paperback, you can probably drop it in a mailbox.

This week I was lucky enough to sell a textbook from years back when I was an undergrad. It's a classic text that one really shouldn't sell if one expects to remain in the field. But to be frank, the essays in this book aren't really the game-changing type and if the day ever comes when I need a copy of this book, I'll just buy one. Meanwhile it was taking up valuable real estate on my book shelf where I could be storing tomes on personal finance and what-have-you.
The book went for $22. The reimbursement for shipping was slightly less than the real cost, plus there was a small commission for half dot com. I got a free, used box, just the right size, from my workplace. And now I'm about 20 bucks richer.
You're not going to fund your retirement by selling old textbooks and bestsellers on the internet. But if you need to free up some space you could try it out. As I go along, the things I can't sell I plan on donating either to the libary or the salvation army.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Things I can do right now to save money

1.      Drop the insurance on our cell phones. The one time I called in about a problem with my phone, the person who assisted me insisted I check into replacing my battery first. Turned out it was the battery. So, yeah. But anyway, someone I know complained that something bad happened to her phone and although she'd paid insurance, they wouldn't cover it. I'll just try to be very careful with my phone. We've had our phones for a few years now and so far, knock on wood. The insurance premium is $7.99/month/phone. That's $191 per year.
a.       This is done now. I calculated what we might have spent over the time we've had these phones. The total. . .about $390. That could have bought us two new phones definitely. With fewer features for sure, but still money gone down the drain.
2.      Research <s>cheaper<s> less expensive auto insurance. The last time I researched auto insurance we got turned down because our situations were too variable for this company to take a risk on. I wasn't employed and was actively seeking a job. They saw the potential for me to suddenly get work fifty miles away from home (and I almost did). Now that I've got a job I travel to by mass transit and hubby has about the same commute, it might be time to try again; reason being our auto insurance went up by more than $10/month. The time I might spend on the phone is definitely worth less than $120. If I can switch to a cheaper plan, though, I'll save way more than the extra $120/year. 
3.      Prepare my lunch. I've found myself spending on lunch unnecessarily. This is embarrassing because what I wind up buying is sometimes something I could have cooked for a fraction of the cost. And sometimes I find the food makes me feel slightly ill. If I would only bring my lunch to work. Imagine, I've spent the better portion of $20 and none of the food was particularly good. There's a potential to save over $500/year doing this if you figure I can prepare my lunch for half the price of what I'd pay at a restaurant or supermarket buffet.
a.       I did this today. Leftover rice and beans with salsa, cheese, store-bought guacamole, an egg, and two tortillas. And I feel great. No funny sounds coming from my tummy.
4.      Return my library books. It's all well and good to borrow books from the library that you don't wish to own; or in lieu of owning books. But it doesn't do to pay too many fines on those books by returning them late. I used to comfort myself by saying, "well, the library doesn't get enough funding so I'm doing my part by paying these fines". That's just silly. If I've got extra to give to charity then I can certainly give it to the library. But I have no budget for fines. Besides, I'm keeping others from reading the books when I fail to return them on time. I haven't paid a lot of fines in recent years but in the past I've dropped $5-$10 on a single visit to the library. Still I'm not entirely certain about the savings here.

All told, I could save nearly $800 for the year if I can meet with success on all of the above.

Do you have a money leak somewhere? What can you do to patch it?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

that's so weird!

I think hubby and I are the average 30-somethings. But we want to be above average. We want to be weird.
For some people normal is finishing high school and then attending a city, state, or private university for four or more years with maximum loans and minimal scholarships.
For a subset of those people, normal is also going on to graduate school without really knowing if it is worth the expenditure and deciding to foot most or all of the bill (rather than having an employer pay for it or save up for it ahead of time).
And for most of the people in this set, and subset, normal is paying those payments nearly clear into retirement.
I don't want to be normal anymore. I am tired of our debt practically cancelling out our savings whenever I calculate our net worth. I'm tired of not being able to go on a "real" vacation because we have to be responsible. I'm tired of paying interest! I'm tired of not being able to stack paper in our retirement and emergency funds. We work hard, so we should be able to save hard. But because of the loans we've taken, we just can't.

I'm fully aware that there are people who make do with a whole lot less and don't have the privelege of the educations we take almost for granted.. However, I'm not happy. I feel that if we have fancy educations, and solid jobs, we should have healthy finances as well. I believe we've been truly blessed and we need to do awesome things with those blessings. Things so awesome that haters line up around the block.

On our road to weird here's what we've done:
1.  paid off our credit card debts.
2.  saved for an emergency. Yes folks. We somehow manage to scrape together a modest-living eight-month emergency fund. That means we'd have to cut our lifestyle to the bone, but we wouldn't have to go without food, transportation and shelter for eight months.
3. Now we're going to pay off our student loans. By my calculations it will take a little less time than the emergency fund, and a little more time than the credit card debts. But I know we can do it.

How weird are you?

Monday, January 7, 2013

cog in the wheel

The shredder I received for a birthday some years back has died. At first it was unclear whether it was jammed, overheated, or just plain kaput. After some investigation we determined we really did need a new shredder. Here's how:

Step 1. I searched for the model of the shredder online and found complaints about the same problem. I also found a video where someone described how they repaired their shredder.
Step 2. Referring to the video, I took the shredder apart. I didn't care if I had never done this before or unintentionally broke any parts. If I could fix it, great. If not, at least I had tried not to waste money.
Step 3. I found that the offending gear was not the same as the one the video instructions identified as the problem. His gear was metal and he was able to slip it out and use the unworn end. My gear was plastic and had somehow been ground down or melted. I'm not sure how it got so damaged but it had no teeth for the other gears to catch on. That was why it made a whining noise and wouldn't move the paper along. What kind of manufacturer makes a shredder with plastic gears?! Talk about planned obsolescence. I wish I knew where they sold gears and stuff. Pretty sure you can't get them at home depot.
Step 4. I left hubby and his assistant to amuse themselves seeing if they could put everything back together while I had a cup of tea (after washing all that grease off my hands).
Step 5. I found a shredder on sale at a big box store around here. It will probably cost about half of what the old one did and will handle more paper. Hopefully the gears are all metal inside. I'll try to get it before the week is out so I can start working on the pile of sensitive information gathering around my desk.

Friday, January 4, 2013

a stitch in time

It took me a few years to figure out what the saying "A stitch in time" meant. A stitch in time saves nine. It means that the sooner you mend or reinforce something that is weakened or torn, the less time and resources you'll have to put into repairing/replacing it later.
On new years' day I spent about an hour repairing some things that no one will ever see. Long undies for my husband had somehow gotten a hole and although he wears them under his clothes, well, you never know who might have occasion to see them. . . knock on wood. The other item was a pair of pants hubby wears around the house. They were khakis he used to wear to work. I sewed up the torn leg and tried my best to patch the turned up cuffs with cuff and collar of an old shirt of mine.
It's not the best patch job. I'm no seamstress. But those pants weren't good enough to donate and weren't bad enough to throw away. Hopefully he'll get a year's more wear out of them.
What have you done to save money/resources lately?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013


Hello and welcome to my new blog. Thanks for stopping by. I decided to start something new in a new year. And what better thing to start than to start writing about something I find fascinating.

The address of this blog comes from a Jamaican Proverb I heard growing up: one one coco full basket. Imagine a woman getting ready to sell produce at a market and being discouraged at what she is able to reap from her farm. But as she digs up what she has planted, one by one, the basket is being filled and soon enough there's enough to make the journey worthwhile. 

My understanding of this saying is that no matter how small each contribution is, you will eventually reach your goal. I think this is especially apt in regard to saving, personal finance, and home economics. it's something I'd like to keep in mind.

That being said, I'll be making an effort to blog regularly, share ideas, and review materials that I find interesting.

All the best for the New Year!