Archive for September, 2007

The Compromise Between Buyers and Sellers

Lately I have become quite fascinated by the real estate articles I find in the paper and online. I can’t count how many articles I’ve read where people need to sell their homes but refuse to lower their asking price. I hear a lot of people talking about how high home prices used to be, just like I heard people saying how much Microsoft and Cisco stock used to be. It seems we live in the past just a little too long sometimes. It doesn’t matter what the housing market looked like yesterday if you’re unable to sell your home today.

In 2004, my husband and I offered 10% less than the asking price on a second home. The buyers told our real estate agent they were insulted and wouldn’t even consider the offer. My husband loved that home and at the time we had quite a few arguments as to whether or not we should purchase it. Honestly, paying the full price was simply too far out of our price range so we had no choice but to walk away.

One year later my husband and I offered 4% less than the asking price on a home that was in the same community as the home we’d bid on the year before. The sellers countered by offering a deduction equal to less than 1% of the price of the home. At the time I wanted to stick to my guns and refuse their offer even though I loved the home. I was ready to walk away from the deal when our real estate agent offered some keen advice. He said, think carefully before walking away from home you love because of a 3% difference in price. In our case, after working through some mortgage calculations, we determined that the difference in price amounted to just over $100 more a month. In the end we purchased the home for 99.2% of the price the sellers originally listed.

These days buyers are more in control of the housing market, but I still think sellers can offload their homes without feeling disappointed. When pricing your home realize that knocking a few thousand dollars off your asking price might get a few more people in the door. Some buyers have a set price in mind when they bid on a home and might not even consider a home outside of that range. A few thousand dollars might be the key to getting an offer.

September 30, 2007 at 7:33 PM Leave a comment

On a Short Hiatus

Sorry for the lack of posts over the past two weeks. I am unsuccessfully preparing for an upcoming test. I promise to get back to posting by the end of next week.

September 27, 2007 at 4:49 AM Leave a comment

Can You Resist a Bargain?

Lately I’ve found myself scrounging along the sales racks of stores looking for bargains. When I head to Target I look along the end of the isle for the clearance items. In the grocery store I search through the table of dented cans and in the department store I head directly to the back of the store. The problem: I often don’t need the items in the bargain bins. Yesterday is a perfect example. I went to Macy’s to return a damaged item. When I got to the checkout line there were already four people waiting in line in front of me. So rather than waste time standing around I decided to stroll about the store looking for bargains.

In the Macy’s near my home the dress department and the children’s department are right next to each other. So after looking through the sale items in the dress department I ventured over to the clearance rack in the children’s section. I don’t have children of my own but I figured it couldn’t hurt to look for items for my niece and nephew. I’ve gotten my niece some adorable outfits on sale at Macy’s. I didn’t see anything worth purchasing in the children’s section but a shopper in the baby section beckoned me over. “Which one of these do you think is cuter?”, she asked, holding up two baby outfits. The woman was holding a blue outfit in one hand and a pink outfit in the other. I thought she might be color blind so I asked who the gift was intended for. “No one,” she told me, “but someone is always having a baby and this deal is too good to resist.” As I reached the parking lot a few minutes later I bumped into the woman again. She pulled the baby outfits out of the shopping bag. “I couldn’t resist,” she said, “I bought the one you liked plus four other outfits.”

In this case the woman purchased five outfits for $25. The retail price was originally $20 per outfit. So she purchased five outfits for a little over the price of one. But does it make sense for someone without children or any planned baby showers to purchase five baby outfits? If you were in the same situation would you have purchased the baby clothes? Is it a bargain to purchase something for which there is no foreseeable need?

I will admit that I have purchased bargain items on far too many occasions. In fact, when a Toys-R-Us store went out of business in our area I bought a whole host of items that were marked down 80%. The same occurred when a Hallmark store went out of business in our area. But on both of those occasions I bought items to give as gifts for known family members. On one hand it seems silly to purchase items without a foreseeable need on the other hand it’s difficult to resist the bargain.

September 21, 2007 at 2:43 AM 7 comments

I Want It… I’m Willing to Work For A Little While

More and more often I find myself wishing for a more enjoyable job. I haven’t decided what I’d rather be doing but I know I’m not entirely satisfied in my current position. On one hand I consider alternative career paths, on the other, I consider the good benefits and pay of my current position. A more meaningful job certainly wouldn’t pay my bills and with two mortgages, one on my primary residence and the other on a beach property, I know I can’t give up my job without giving up my beach home. So when I weigh the pros and cons of quitting with the pros and cons of giving up my house I get in the car and drive to work.

Then yesterday as I was reading an article in the New York Times I found a quote that summed up my thoughts on the issue.

…they spoke as if a money-clock were ticking: many said they wanted to make as much money as fast as they could so that they could live in style later in life while doing less lucrative things like running a charity, working for the government, spending time with their families, or inventing new technologies.

The article focuses on young hedge fund traders at places like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. My salary isn’t even close to the those interviewed and I don’t particularly want to live in style, but the overall sentiment is the same. I want to work today to support a more enjoyable more meaningful career and life in the future.

Is this attainable and when could a more meaningful career begin? That’s something I have yet to figure out on paper. For now, my husband and I are saving a good deal of our income, in the hopes that the future might be right around the corner.

September 20, 2007 at 1:38 AM 7 comments

How to Guide: Gift Wrapping

I have always prided myself on my gift wrapping abilities. Silly as it sounds I want the outside of the package to look as pretty as the gift inside. Whenever I find wrapping paper or ribbons on sale I stock up and I’m ashamed to say I have a closet full of paper at my disposal. Baby showers, birthdays, weddings, you name it I have the paper for every gift giving occasion. I know, I know, all that paper is bad for the earth, but unwrapping a gift is the one moment that makes each of us feel like a child. There’s nothing quite like that moment of anticipation and excitement as you hold the gift in your hand and wonder what’s hiding behind the paper.

This weekend as I was wrapping a gift for a wedding I decided to look online for helpful gift wrapping hints. I came across a great how to guide on the Container Store’s website. For those of you who don’t have the best gift wrapping skills this guide will teach you how to wrap a box and create a basic bow. For those of you who’d like to learn more the guide includes instructions for a number of different bow types.

September 19, 2007 at 3:01 AM Leave a comment

Ebates Cash Back Reaches $500

Today my Ebates account reached over $500 in total savings. I’ve been using the Ebates site since 2003 and if I’ve managed to save that much money it probably means I’ve been shopping way too much.

If you do not already have an Ebates account I urge you to sign up for one. You’ll get $5 cash back the first time you make a purchase. You can sign up by clicking here.

Before making a purchase I usually compare the savings on Ebates with that of FatWallet. More often than not I find Ebates to be a better deal because the cash back turnaround is much faster, but every once in awhile I’ll get a better deal through FatWallet. If you’re not familiar with either site I urge you to check them both out.

September 18, 2007 at 1:40 AM Leave a comment

Lessons Learned from Reorganizing

Over the past few days I have been reorganizing the closets and shelves in my home. I’ve managed to fill five large shopping bags with barely worn sheets, towels, and clothes. As I look at the piles of items awaiting their trip to the goodwill I realize that I simply own too much stuff. In one closet I found over 20 bath towels. My household consists of two people, my husband and I. What do two people need with twenty towels? We received towels as wedding presents and never purged the old ones and we bought towels on sale for our home in North Carolina and then brought them home to Maryland. The same thing happened with a number of other items in our home. Over time we accumulated new items but simply never purged the old.

At first, I couldn’t decide whether or not I should donate these items. After all, one day we will need new towels and many of the ones I’m donating are practically brand new. But in the end I decided it simply didn’t make sense to keep all of these items hanging around our home when we don’t need them. The same thing can be said of our bread machine and rice cooker. We have so many items collecting dust around our home that we simply don’t use. Why keep them on the shelves just because they are still in working order?

While reorganizing the closet I also realized that my husband and I should stop shopping at warehouse stores for most items. As I cleaned out the hall closet I found 8 bottles of toilet bowl cleaner. Again, what do two people need with 8 bottles of toilet bowl cleaner? Or four bottles of Windex? And three enormous bottles of Tilex? From a monetary standpoint we may have gotten a better deal by purchasing in bulk, but if we aren’t going to use the item for a few months, what else could we have done with that money?

As I look at the piles for donation I hope to keep these thoughts in mind the next time I go shopping. It’s not just a matter of asking myself whether or not I need the item but also asking my self how long until I’ll actually use it. To me it’s not worth saving 20 cents if it means I have to store the item for six months.

September 16, 2007 at 4:37 PM Leave a comment

Suggestions for my Beach Rental Home

As a child I went on very few vacations with my family. Once or twice we rented a condo in Ocean City. One summer we arrived at the ocean to find a run down condo with stained floors, outdated appliances and uncomfortable furniture. My parents spent a good deal of money on that rental and they expected a beautiful home away from home, not a shabby run down shack of a condo. I can still remember my mom’s disappointment as we walked inside. I can still remember her saying it was such a waste of money.

I know that many families save up money each year to take a single family vacation. So now that I own a home at the ocean I want my guests to enjoy their stay just as much as we do. In fact, at the end of every rental season I read over our guest book to find out what the guests most enjoyed about their stay. If they mention the need for a specific beach or household item I make certain to purchase one for the upcoming rental season.

In the three years since we’ve owned the home we’ve remodeled two bathrooms, replaced the hot tub with a much larger one, installed a pool heater, refitted the kitchen with recessed lights, replaced appliances, replaced bedroom and living room furniture, built a small deck under the house, hung new paintings and pictures and replaced all of the bedspreads with more colorful ones.

Just before the summer rental season begins, I head to the store in search of games, pool toys, and other inexpensive amenities that will bring enjoyment to the guests. I have met many other owners who treat their homes like a business. They upgrade their homes only when it’s necessary and don’t care to provide any extras. In truth they don’t care whether or not their guests enjoy their time at the beach. But I want my guests to love my home so much that they return year after year. I want their first thought to be, “I’m so glad we chose to stay here.”

This year though I’m running out of ideas for additional items I can provide. After a long conversation with a recent guest I am considering purchasing the Margaritaville Frozen Concoction™ Maker. It’s essentially a large blender perfect for making margaritas, but at nearly $300 it seems a bit pricey. Other than the super sized blender I’m all out of ideas. If you have any suggestions for items you’ve enjoyed at the beach or think a beach home should have please leave a comment. I know my guests will appreciate the suggestions.

September 13, 2007 at 2:04 AM 4 comments

Simple Lives with Less Clutter

I read two interesting posts today focused on living a simple life free of unwanted clutter. Get Rich Slowly discusses a free e-book intended to reduce the clutter and complexity of your life, while Lazy Man and Money focuses on reducing clutter by purchasing a smaller home.

I am happy to see more and more bloggers discussing the need to purge homes of unwanted and unused items. Last week I wrote about an easy way to organize your home. Over the last few months I have been cleaning out closet after closet, reorganizing used items and donating everything else. Today I took two boxes of gently used books to our local library. Last week my husband and I took boxes of unwanted kitchen items, including pots, pans, plates, and cutlery to a donation center in North Carolina. It’s amazing how many perfectly good items are sitting in drawers and closets in our homes. I hate the idea of throwing out something that’s perfectly usable but I’m happy to donate to others in need.

As I was cleaning out the basement this evening I began to add up the prices of all of the items to be donated. I was amazed by how many books I owned. The most inexpensive book was $7.50 the most expensive $55. In books alone I had spent well over $350. Prior to tonight I hadn’t added up the costs of the items I donated. I was simply happy to purge them from my home. But as I added the numbers in my head I began to realize just how quickly small purchases can add up. What else could I have done with $350?

Many of the items I have come across in the past few weeks are practically brand new. Many have only been used one or two times including a bread machine, slow cooker, rice cooker, and most of the books in my home. As I cleaned out my closets and bookshelves I made a pact with myself to think more consciously about future purchases. As much as I’m happy to donate to those in need, I hate the idea that I’ve wasted money purchasing items I didn’t need and don’t use.

September 12, 2007 at 3:33 AM 5 comments

Limited Posting This Week

There will be few, if any, posts this week as I celebrate a week long vacation with my family. Happy Labor Day!

September 3, 2007 at 4:04 AM Leave a comment

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