5 Questions to ask Yourself before Taking out a Loan

Sometimes it’s necessary to take out a loan to get yourself out of a jam. In certain circumstances loans might make sense, but before completing the application and submitting, ask yourself these five questions.

  1. Am I Taking the Loan for a Valid Reason?

One of the major reasons people get head over heels in debt is because they choose to take out loans or lines of credit for products and services they do not need. Ask yourself if this is a legitimate reason to take this loan. Will this loan be a solution to your problem or provide a short, temporary fix? If this loan is for a short-term want like a vacation, is it really worth going into debt over?

  1. Should I Just Save and Wait to Pay This Off?

We live in a now society and having access to personal loans and lines of credit makes it easy to get what we want, when we want. Sales make it even more enticing to take a loan for a purchase if the money is not readily available. Ask yourself whatever the purchase is, is it worth it to purchase it now and incur the interest charges and mandatory monthly payment. Alternatively, should you save the money on your own terms and pay for it outright? Once you do so, you may realize the interest rate would cost you more than the discounted price.

  1. How Do I Expect to Pay it Back?

If a loan really is necessary consider how you will pay it back.

  • Where is the money going to come from?
  • Will this additional monthly expense force you to stop saving each month?
  • Will you need to get a part time job? If so, do you now need to look at babysitting options? Do you have options for making additional money?

Make sure when taking out a loan that you can reasonably pay it back without digging yourself into further trouble.

  1. What Happens if My Situation Changes and I Can’t Pay the Loan?

You may find yourself in a good place now, but what will happen if your situation changes? What if you lose your job or encounter an unexpected medical expense? Will this affect your ability to pay the loan? This takes you back to point #1, are you taking this loan for a valid reason. If it’s not valid, it’s not worth the risk.

  1. Will My Credit Score Make This Difficult?

When applying for a personal loan your credit score will be checked. If your credit score is low, this can make obtaining a loan difficult, especially one with a decent interest rate. Remember, if you have a low credit score and start applying for loans, you run the risk of decreasing your score even more, and frequent denials will look bad on your report.  Of course, not all online loan services check your credit. Many short term loans will not pull credit.

Ask yourself these five questions before taking out a loan. You may find the loan is not necessary or worth it.

February 11, 2015 at 5:13 PM Leave a comment

Struggling to Part with My Belongings

I’m pretty certain I’ve created a monster. After watching box after plastic box move out of our basement and into our garage my husband has suddenly declared everything must go! After nearly a month of work the contractors finished their remodeling efforts and my husband declared the downstairs a storage-free zone. He wants to keep the space as open as possible, which for the time being means he wants to see nothing but furniture and a very small number of toys.

The great purge began back in October as part of my crazy need to begin nesting. Five months later, and more trips to the donation center than I can possibly count, I can honestly say I have cataloged the majority of items in our house. I have touched just about every item, questioned it’s importance and either discarded, donated or found a proper place for it to reside.

I’m pretty proud of the dwindled down pile of plastic boxes remaining. The biggest offenders at this point are boxes filled with toys and clothes ranging from six months to four years. As you can imagine there are a lot of these boxes. The boxes are sorted by type and there is a box for every item of clothing; shoes, coats, pants, shorts, t-shirts, sweaters, sweatshirts and swim suits.

Part of me wants to ship all of these things out the front door and the rest of me thinks that’s crazy. After all, if I’ve held on to them for the past three years I might as well hold on to them for a few more. I know it would cost a lot of money to buy everything again, but I will kick myself if the majority of clothes don’t fit because child number one is born in the fall and child number two is due in the spring.

I also don’t want to part with the three or four bins of infant and toddler toys. Again I feel this is somewhat crazy as grandparents, aunts and uncles are always inundating my son with gifts. I’m pretty certain baby number two wouldn’t miss a beat if I sold everything today and set the toy pile for toys back to zero. If my husband had the ultimate say they would all be gone tomorrow.

Once baby number two is born I’ll have a better idea of his or her general size and growth patterns. That should sway the decision on what to keep and what to donate. Maybe that factor alone will help me decide just what I really should keep.

I find it difficult to part with things for practical reasons. My mind keeps telling me my next child will play with those toys or wear those hand-me-downs.

I’ve had similar, conflicting feelings about the ridiculous pile of gift bags and rolls of wrapping paper sitting in our basement. In my head I know that I probably paid less than $1 for any one item, yet as I look at the stack I hate to part with any of it. I know that one day I will need to wrap a gift or find a pretty gift bag for a special occasion.

Quite honestly I’ve convinced myself that I’m keeping them around for the convenience factor. After all, who wants to drive to the store with two kids in tow just to buy wrapping paper? The other part of me knows this is ridiculous. How many gifts do we give throughout the year? Not that many. The rolls in the basement may last me a lifetime.

This isn’t the first time I’ve struggled to part with strange things, yet every time it happens I’m surprised by either the sentimentality or the stubbornness with which I want to keep stuff I don’t need.

Have you ever struggled to get rid of something you know you don’t use? Do you find yourself holding on to things for practical reasons, when in reality you know you probably don’t need them?

February 11, 2015 at 1:00 AM 4 comments

How Much Did I Earn From Online Endeavors in 2014

Just how much money did I earn from online endeavors in 2014? Here is the breakdown in comparison to 2012 and 2013:

Category 2012 2013 2014
Amazon Sales $28.68 $24.73 $0.00
Book Sales $101.07 $48.75 $43.97
eBay Sales $641.73 $252.69 $54.90
Goods Received $140.00 $545.69 $0.00
Surveys $474.00 $867.50 $484.00
Rebates & Cash Back $233.51 $119.42 $371.26
Writing Contests $750.00 $0 $0
Prizes from Giveaways $149.00 $1,755.95 $1,224.99
Advertising $1,957.25 $3,233.35 $2,594.70
TOTAL $4,475.24  $6,848.08 $4,773.82

And here it is in a pretty pie chart form:

2014 Revenue

The numbers are pretty pitiful. A $2,074.26 drop from last year. As you can guess from the numbers above I sold almost nothing. In fact, the $54.90 eBay total came from one sale; a baby monitor that didn’t work with the cameras I purchased.

In 2013 I was given a plethora of goods to review. Everything from free canvas prints, to wall decals and even laundry related items. Last year I didn’t receive a single offer.

A few of my go-to survey sites stopped producing big bucks last year and in general I lost interest in wasting time starting surveys that never seemed to pay out. A few also changed their cash out rules, so you can only request gift cards once a quarter, which means I can bank a ton of points but never use them for anything worthwhile.

The only category that increased was cash back and rebates. I started using Ibotta, SavingStar and Checkout51 much more frequently. I also made certain to click through Mr. Rebates, Ebates and TopCashBack whenever shopping online. Of course, this category is rather misleading, because it also means I probably spent a whole lot of money to earn back as much as I did.

In 2013 I was particularly lucky and won a total of twenty-one giveaways. This year my overall earnings weren’t quite as high, but I still managed to bring home $1,224.99 from thirteen different contests. I entered fewer contests overall this year and participated in fewer tweet chat related giveaways. These days I only submit easy entry forms with super low entries, which means my numbers will probably dwindle even more.

My advertising revenue also fell a bit from last year. In general I received fewer offers to advertise and the rates for each advertisement were lower than ever before.

Overall the picture is rather bleak, but in general I didn’t push things as hard as I did the previous year, so it’s not surprising I earned a whole lot less.

February 10, 2015 at 10:00 AM 1 comment

Book Review: The Monster That Ate My Socks

The Monster That Ate my Socks

Book Description:

A young boy, who is about to be grounded for going through so many socks, discovers that a monster has been eating them.

Max is a young boy who is constantly getting in trouble for his socks disappearing. He doesn’t know where they go, but he does know that if he doesn’t do something quickly his mom will ground him for summer. Max soon discovers that a little green monster is sneaking into his room at night and eating his sweaty socks. His mother, of course, doesn’t believe him, so Max calls on his best friend to come for a sleepover to catch the monster.

They devise a trap and capture the monster only to learn that the creature can speak. It hasn’t meant to cause any harm, it’s just trying to feed its family. The monster shows them his home and his three little children and begs the boys not to turn them over to the adults. Adults, he says, want to destroy monsters.

The boys are left in a pickle. Allow the monsters to be and get grounded, or turn the monsters in,​ knowing what will happen to them? Neither idea seems good, so they come up with a new plan!

My Thoughts:

This is the kind of story that touches your heart in a very unexpected way. The story starts out with a typical problem many of us have faced at one point or another in our lives; socks that seem to disappear from the laundry.

Max, an inquisitive young boy, sees a tiny piece of torn clothing on the floor and investigates the problem. Max and his friend Ryan create a trap that catches the green monster with three eyes. This all seems par for the course for two young boys. I could see my own son trying to devise a trap like this a few years from now to investigate mysterious problems.

Spoiler Alert:

What I liked most about this book though was how kind and compassionate the boys were once they caught the monster. After finding out that the monster had children of its own the boys asked to see them. After greeting the babies the boys realize they need to come up with a long term food solution that doesn’t involve their dirty socks.

The monsters discover that they love eating bad homework just as much as socks so the boys devise a plan to take them to their school where they can dig in the trashcans every night to look for papers with bad grades.

I love how the two boys who originally want to capture the monster and possibly harm him end up finding them a better home where the entire monster family can be fed and happy.

At the basic level this is a story about two boys and a monster, but if you dig a little deeper you’ll find it’s also a feel good story about understanding the problems of those around us and finding solutions that can help us work together.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book for free, but the opinions I have expressed are my own.

February 9, 2015 at 8:00 AM 3 comments

Amazon: How to Track a Product to Get the Best Price

While I have most of the items I need for baby number two there are a few odds and ends that I need to buy again. On the list is a light weight stroller that will hold an infant car seat. I gave away the one we used for my son, because it was much too short for my 6’1” frame.

After being frugal to a fault and holding on to it for much longer than I should have I passed it on to a good friend of mine. When I gave that one away I knew if I ever got pregnant again that I would need to buy another one.

With a few months to spare before the arrival of our next child I drove to Babies-R-Us and tested out strollers. I wanted to find the tallest, most light-weight option and ultimately decided on the Graco Snugrider. I searched around for the best prices and found that the going rate was roughly $89.

I didn’t need this item right away, so I set up Amazon tracking via CamelCamelCamel. It’s extremely simple to use. Just create an account, copy the URL for a particular Amazon item and paste it in the CamelCamelCamel search box. Then set your desired price and click the Start Tracking button.

My favorite part about this website is the historical price chart it provides for each Amazon item.

Amazon Tracking

With a quick glance you can see the highs and lows over the course of one month or one year. This helps you gauge the current price and decide whether or not it’s a good deal to buy now or wait a little while.

I decided to wait awhile and received an alert on January 26th that the price had dropped to $63.99. That’s a huge difference from the $89 high: a $25.01 difference to be exact. The moment I received that alert I became an instant fan!

This won’t save you money if you need to purchase an item immediately, but if you have time to spare it’s definitely worth a try.

Note: I did not receive any compensation for this post. I just think it’s a really great website and wanted to share!

February 8, 2015 at 11:31 PM Leave a comment

Would You Feel Guilty Profiting From Hand-Me-Downs?

Money

The other day I wrote about my trip to the local consignment shop. In that post I mentioned consigning a few articles of clothing that were given to me by a former coworker. In response I received the following comment:

Just curious but do you feel guilty for taking something someone gave you for free and then turning around and selling it and keeping the money? I got mad at my brother for selling stuff I had given him since he didn’t tell me and kept the money. The original reason I gave him the items is because I thought he could use them to save him money. If I had known he was just going to sell them I would have sold them myself. Not trying to say what you did was wrong, just curious if you have any thoughts on that.

Here is my response to that inquiry:

The short answer is no. I do not feel guilty. Here’s why… My friend had twin boys. She knows that I cannot possibly use all of the clothing she gives me every season. One time I received thirty pairs of toddler pants. Another time I received twenty pairs of shoes. I wouldn’t even have the space in the dresser to store all of these things if I wanted to.

Second, every time I pick up hand-me-downs I specifically ask her if she wants any of them back. Every time she tells me ‘no. if you don’t need it pass it on to someone else.’ Up until now I’ve done that by donating to friends, family and our local donation center.

Third, I take my friend out to lunch every time I pick up clothes from her. The pitiful amount of money I earned from her hand-me-downs at consignment wouldn’t even cover the number of lunches I’ve paid for over the last three years. I earned $18 for all the stuff I took in. Three quarters of that was stuff that I had purchased myself. Of course, if the items I received were worth hundreds of dollars it might be a different story.

My advice and two cents… If you want stuff back after you lend it to someone let them know. My brother gave me two expensive items: a baby carrier and an expensive toy. He asked me to return them after my son was finished using/playing with them. For everything else he said keep it, pass it on, whatever. I think you definitely need to set firm expectations of what you expect when you ‘give things away.’ In the future if you give your brother things I would definitely suggest asking for them back if he isn’t going to use them.

I’m curious what the readers of this blog think. Would you feel guilty selling someone that was handed down to you? Do you think you should let the original owner know it might be worth money and offer to return it so they could sell it themselves?

Photo Credit

February 6, 2015 at 8:54 PM 11 comments

Round Up: Making Money by Cleaning Out the House

shipping supplies

With all of the nesting and remodeling taking place in my house I began to wonder if I could make any money selling the stuff I so desperately wanted to purge.

I tried a couple of different approaches to offloading my unwanted belongings. Here is where I landed so far:

  • eBay Sales: $86.37 for six items (more sales pending)
  • Book Sales: $86.65
  • DVD Sales: $11.97
  • Returning Unwanted and Unused Items: $54.36
  • Consignment: $18.72

Total earned after shipping and fees: $258.07.

What I learned along the way:

  • I am not a fan of eBay. The fees for selling and shipping seem a whole lot higher than they used to be. After paying the 10% eBay fee, a PayPal fee, paying for shipping supplies and USPS labels my profits quickly dwindled. eBay sales felt like a general pain to me. Listing didn’t take a particularly long amount of time, but it does take a few minutes to take pictures, provide a description and post. A few buyers took forever to pay, which meant following up day after day and packing and driving the boxes to the post office wasn’t particularly fun either.
  • Book buying sites make selling unwanted books so easy. I used bookscouter to price out the highest paying vendors and shipped packages to five different companies. While I might have earned more on eBay or half.com I enjoyed bundling everything up and shipping them off all at once. The downside: a couple of boxes were so big they required hand delivery to the post office and the post offices around my house, well quite frankly, suck. I didn’t want to wait in line for twenty minutes to ship $5 or $10 worth of books.
  • I had no idea anyone would want to purchase a bunch of old children’s DVDs, but to my surprise we had a small stack of old movies that a few companies were willing to buy. I punched in the UPCs and compared bids. I sold a bunch of children’s videos we received as hand-me-downs from friends and family members. A few were worth $3 or $4, but most were worth around 50 cents. This isn’t getting rich money, but since they were headed out the door anyway I figured I might as well make a little money off of them.
  • In digging through our closets I found a number of brand new items we didn’t really need. Included in that list were a few books I never got a chance to read and a couple of children’s toys. (It seems I bought a few too many things over the holidays.) I try to keep the receipts for everything I buy, so I gathered the items together and returned them. I know that buying books can be a huge waste of money for me. It’s a lesson I really need to keep at the forefront of my mind. For some reason the temptation to buy more is always lingering.
  • I wrote about my consignment adventure yesterday. I certainly didn’t earn much from my haul, but a larger volume might bring in more cash next time. I would certainly consider this route after baby number two outgrows the infant toys and baby gear a year or so from now.

Do you have any other ideas for purging stuff? How do you get rid of unwanted possessions?

Photo Credit

February 5, 2015 at 3:14 PM 1 comment

Book Review: Aoléon The Martian Girl Part Two

Aoleon The Martian Girl PART 2

Book Description:

Aoléon and Gilbert receive a special mission from PAX, a wanted criminal and leader of the Martian resistance movement to investigate the Luminon of Mars, who he suspects is planning an invasion of Earth to steal its milk cows. Gilbert has an encounter with the Luminess (the mate of the Luminon) and discovers something strange about her during a procession, and the duo are chased by the Royal Paladin Guard.

At Aoléon’s home, Gilbert meets Aoléon’s family, her sister Una, mother Phobos and father Deimos as well as her overzealous pet Zoot. He is also introduced to Bizwat, a covert operator and Procyon Commando, who uses his Saturn Pizza delivery job as a cover.

Gilbert then gets to visit the Martian Space Academy (Aoléon’s school) where he encounters Aoléon’s nemesis, Charm Lepton and her friend Quarkina, as well as receiving a history lesson on the Martian people by Plutarch Xenocrates. After class, Gilbert and Aoléon get to train in zero-G and Gilbert is treated to a Psi-ball match between Martian Space Academy and Martian Science Academy.

My Thoughts:

I enjoyed reading part two of the Aoléon series and imagine young readers would love learning about Aoléon’s home world and the people she interacts with on a day-to-day basis. Despite living on a distant planet the relationship between Gilbert and Aoléon form as though she were a new neighbor who moved in next door. Their interactions, like eating pizza with the rest of her family feel natural and close to home. The author made this alien home world feel quite approachable. Although he adds a sci-fi feeling to the characters and activities their world doesn’t seem so much different than our own.

The people’s emotions and flaws feel particularly human. I love that Gilbert can read the alien’s minds. For example, he can see that the young girls who taunt Aoléon are struggling with family problems of their own. I like the humanity with which the author describes these brief glimpses into their thoughts. As adults we know that an individual’s actions are often deeper than what meets the eye. As children though we don’t always understand that actions are motivated by unseen factors like sadness or problems at home. This book highlights the underlying feelings that can impact behavior; a lesson that children are never to young to learn.

The vivid graphics and colorful illustrations help you envision the world the author wishes to portray. The comic book like feeling continues throughout chapter two but the intensity of images greatens. You can really envision the spaces where these aliens live. Everything from the chairs at the dining table to the meeting spaces and open air squares of the city.

I think this book would certainly capture the interest of any young reader who wants to explore far off places and distant lands.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book for free, but the opinions I have expressed are my own.

February 5, 2015 at 12:00 AM Leave a comment

Consignment Shops: My Thoughts on Selling Kid’s Clothing

sales rack

Every season I purchase a few new clothing items for my son. I typically shop the clearance aisles of local stores like Old Navy, Kohl’s and Gymboree and walk away with a few cute shirts and pants. Within a few weeks of shopping I invariably receive an email message from a former coworker that reads, “I have a few bags of hand-me-downs. Would you like to meet up for lunch and pick them up?”

I am ever so thankful for everything we have received over the past three years. Bags and bags of clothing, toys and other baby related items have saved me a big chunk of money.

I’m a stickler for processing these hand-me-downs as soon as they come in the front door. I pour all of the bags and boxes onto the dining room table and sort by type. Books land in one pile, shirts, pants and toys in another.

I generate a pile for anything I don’t plan to keep. This typically includes pants with zippers and anything that looks particularly worn or too small. It might also include puzzles or toys that I don’t think my son will be interested in or duplicates of items he already owns. In the past I gathered everything together and dragged them off to the donation center.

This time around I picked through the piles and selected a few items in particularly good condition that my son probably wouldn’t wear. This included brand new items that were a size too small for my son as well as dress shirts, pants and sweaters that I don’t typically dress him in.

Yesterday I drove to a local consignment shop to see if they might be worth something. I also added a couple of maternity pants that never quite fit right and three toddler toys.

I didn’t have any expectation for how much I might earn. Since I typically donate these items I figured any amount of money offered would be a bonus.

I carried a medium sized bin into the store and shopped for a bit. After fifteen or twenty minutes a kind cashier invited me back to the front of the store.

I was offered $18.72 in cash or $22.02 in store credit. I selected the cash option, which averaged a pitiful $1.70 per item.

The pile included four brand new items, (a toddler sweatshirt, one pair of pajamas and two 2T onesies), two used Melissa and Doug toys, three like-new maternity items and two pairs of pre-owned toddler pants.

It’s not exactly getting rich money, eh? Since many of the items were free to me, I didn’t feel bad about selling them at such low rates, but if I had paid full price I certainly would’ve felt robbed.

While I was shopping I noticed that the store’s prices were nearly as high as purchasing items for new. So I know that the item they paid me $1.70 for will probably be re-tagged around $15.

I also understand that the store wants to earn as much money as possible and that they are paying me upfront for the merchandise. Honestly I like this model better than one where you don’t get paid unless someone purchases the item you consigned.

I wish I tried consigning sooner. I’m just curious if I had anything else in those donation bags that could have netted a profit. It’s not so much about making money it’s more a curiosity about how much someone would be willing to pay me for them.

Have you ever consigned children’s clothes or toys before? What was your experience?

Photo Credit

February 4, 2015 at 3:35 PM 4 comments

Rebounding from your Christmas Spending

According to www.consumerreports.org, 56 percent of Americans worry about paying their bills after holiday shopping. The amount of money individuals spend on holiday shopping can range from a couple of hundred to thousands of dollars. Consider these five tips to pay off your holiday in a short amount of time.

Part-Time Jobs

One of the best ways to pay off your holiday shopping is to take a part-time job. There are a variety of part-time jobs in the retail and restaurant industry. Those individuals with obligations at home might consider finding online opportunities like completing online surveys and writing freelance articles to bring in extra cash. You can also your present employer for over-time opportunities might be available.

Eat At Home

A lot of money is spent on food each and every month. It’s tempting to eat out for lunch during the week, but those quick meals can cost a great deal of money in the long run. Consider brown bagging those workday lunches and reconsider expensive nights dining with friends or family. The money you save could help pay for expensive holiday shopping bills. Swap a few restaurant meals for make-at-home lunches and dinners and watch the savings stack up. If you aren’t sure what to make spend a few minutes searching for quick recipes online. There are a variety of healthy meals that can be prepared at home in a short amount of time.

Cut Out Unnecessary Expenses

Another great way to pay off holiday shopping is to only spend money on things you really need. Cut out some of the luxuries in life until your bills are paid off. Holiday shoppers might consider cancelling their gym membership until their finances are in order. Also consider at home entertainment instead of going out to movies or clubs. If gas bills are high consider carpooling, using public transportation and consolidating your errands to one or two days of the week.

Sell Valuable Items

Many people don’t realize the amount of valuable items cluttering up their home. You might not get a great deal of money from selling items, but every little bit of cash will help pay off those holiday debts. There are several retail stores that buy used books and movies in good condition. Also consider consignment stores, pawn shops and eBay.

Look For Roommates

If you have an extra room in your home consider renting it out to help pay off the debts of holiday shopping. You can easily save hundreds of dollars a month when you find a roommate and begin splitting household bills. Of course you want to think carefully before using this approach to knocking out debt. Take proper precautions when selecting a roommate. Start by asking family members and close friends if they need a place to stay or know someone who does.

Whether you decide to turn your home into an Air BnB or your car into an Uber or Lyft ride, you are bound to find innovative ways to pay down those extra holiday shopping bills. The key is to stop spending more money and focus all ‘extra’ money on the debts you’ve already incurred.

Jason Kane is a professional blogger who focuses on personal finance and other money matters. He currently writes for Checkworks.com, a leading supplier of personal and business checks.

February 3, 2015 at 5:00 PM Leave a comment

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