As our son becomes more mobile, we’re spending more time in our backyard chasing him around. This has given us the idea of installing a new patio behind our house. The current plan is to use the Pavestone system to lay a 13 x 16 patio.
Never having done this before, we headed to Home Depot this weekend full of questions. Unfortunately the Pavestone experts were gone for the day so we’ll have to check back with them next week. We did pickup a planning brochure and a multi-media CD with some planning information. Has anyone ever used Pavestone for a patio before? Any suggestions or tips you could offer that would help us get it done faster, cheaper, or with fewer mistakes : ) would be appreciated. Here are some money articles I enjoyed this week:
-Top High-Yield Savings Accounts: Interest Rates And Some Thoughts @ Money, Matter, & More
-“Are You a Better Investor?” @ Suns Financial Diary
-A Lazy Portfolio @ Lazy Man & Money
-12 Ways To Beat Inflation: Don’t Let Rising Prices Get You Down @ The Digerati Life
-Transferring Assets Upon Death Through a Will @ Generation X Finance
-Vanguard Reduces Barrier to Entry for Voyager Services @ Five Cent Nickel
-ETF 101: 5 Reasons ETFs Trump Mutual Funds @ Free Money Finance
-Coolest Credit Card Loyalty Rewards @ Blueprint for Financial Prosperity
-A $503,000 typo? @ Mighty Bargain Hunter
-Financial Advisers and Stock Brokers: What’s the Difference? @ Consumerism Commentary
-Day 21 of 33 Days And 33 Ways To Save Money And Reduce Debt: Focus @ No Credit Needed
–The Accidental Investor @ Paid Twice
-Smart and Simple Financial Strategies for Busy People @ Get Rich Slowly
-How To Build A One-Person Million-Dollar Web Business… By Age 17 @ My Money Blog
-The One Hour Project: Thoroughly Research A Stock @ The Simple Dollar
Do you want get started selling on eBay but you’re not sure what to sell? Here’s a simple trick you can use to get some good local product ideas. What do most eBay sellers that aren’t drop shipping their products have in common? They have to ship the packages themselves via US Postal mail, UPS, FedEx, DHL, etc.
It’s kind of like the National Geographic researchers that hang out by the watering holes in dry climates. They know all animals need water so the ones they’re studying will show up there sooner or later. Of course, you don’t have time to hang out at the local UPS store all day snooping for ideas. Why not “spy” on other eBay sellers in your area with the help of the people that work at UPS or FedEx stores? These people are in contact with other eBay sellers every day and could pick up some good information for you through those interactions.
Shipping Research Contact
Start off by building a relationship with the owner of your local shipping store. The local post office probably wouldn’t be an ideal spot. There are so many people working there on varying schedules it would be hard to form a relationship with one. Plus postal workers are government employees that aren’t necessarily in the same customer relationship mode as franchise owners like UPS or DHL that is conducive relationship building.
Let the store owner or worker know you’re going to be starting an eBay business and would like to use them as your primary shipper. Bring up the fact you’re looking for some product ideas and ask if they’d be willing to help you do some simple research. If they say no, just move on to the next shipping store.
Product Idea Research
Just ask your shipping contact to strike up a conversation with their customers that are sending packages with pre-paid PayPal labels. See if they’ll ask what they’re selling, where they get their product, how much they make, those kinds of questions.
Some people will be guarded and won’t want to share but other people love to talk about their business and might go into some detail. Your shipping contact likely won’t reveal the identity of their customers to you but they don’t have to. All you’re looking for are ideas that work for others.
Strategy in Action
I have established a great relationship with the owner of our local UPS store and he has given me some good ideas on seasonal and hot products that he’s heard from other customers. In return, I loaned him some informational resources and gave him some advice on how he could sell on eBay. He setup an eBay Store to make some extra money and passes product tips onto me. If you’re looking for some ideas, give it a try!
What’s the secret to being able to quit your day job? Make your own time worth more to you per hour than your employer is paying. How can you do that, one step at a time : )
Step One – Overcome Naysayers
This is a topic I’ve been giving a lot of thought to recently. Actually twice yesterday, first when a fubar project blindsided us at work and then again while seething in snarled traffic on the drive home. How can I make my time worth more than $39 an hour (around $52 an hour including benefits)? This is quite a tall order, daunting to say the least. I think the first step to quitting your day job is convincing yourself that you can swing it. It’s not an easy thing to do, so there will be many naysayers, yourself included.
There are some days when doubt hits me big time the first few minutes after the alarm goes off. “What am I doing”, I think to myself as I recap the previous night working into the early hours of the morning. “Why can’t I just be happy with the steady job I have? Why do I push myself so hard? It’s never going to happen, just give it up.” Luckily as I slowly wrap my brain around these thoughts the optimist inside me starts to wake up and I’m planning my “work outside of work” schedule for the day ahead by the time I leave for the office. You’ll doubt yourself at times, just keep going! If you’re really struggling watching the Pursuit of Hayypness should get you going again.
Step Two – Set Expectations
How I’d love to give my two weeks notice tomorrow but alas that’s not realistic with a family and a mortgage. You have to set a time table for success, decide when you’ll be ready to strike out on your own. My date is January 10th 2013; 13 years after the day I started work with my current job. If the day comes sooner that’d be GROOVY but as of now I’m planning to give my two weeks notice right around Christmas time 2012. Having a D-day not only gives you something to look forward to and work towards but also sets you up for the next step, planning.
Step Three – Plan Backwards
One problem I have with making progress towards my D-Day is that I have too many ideas and get easily distracted from my plans by new projects. As I recently listened to Simpleology for some tips on staying focused I picked up on the backwards planning method where you begin with your end goal. You picture yourself achieving your goal and then determine the last step you took just before reaching the goal. You continue this process of looking back one step at a time until you’ve reached the current point in time. I haven’t taken the time to sit down and do this yet. Once I’m finished, I think I’ll have a much better idea of the different things I need to succeed at to reach my goal.
Step Four – Reality Check
Run the numbers from your backwards plan against where you are today. What are your living expenses now, what do project they’ll be around your D-day? What financial changes do you need to make to accomplish your goal? The less you spend, the less you’ll need to earn. Does your current financial reality fall in line with your plan, if not what needs adjusting?
Step Five – Network
I don’t know where I read it or who said it but I think it’s true. One of the best ways to become successful is to help make other people successful. Surround yourself by like minded people and help them succeed. Sharing ideas, giving & getting getting feedback, and partnering together on projects will help you both grow.
Another important step is to find good mentors. Just last night I heard a quote from Tony Robbins something along the lines of how you have to ask the right questions to get the right answers. If you have an experienced mentor they’ll not only be full of answers but will hopefully steer you towards asking the right ones.
Step Six – Get Started
Of course, you actually got started with step one but I’m referring to the work you have to do after the initial steps. You’ll have to get started every day and every night. Luckily, after you get started enough times it becomes a little easier because you create routines and figure out smarter or more efficient ways to do things. But if you don’t get started, you’ll never get where you’re headed, so get going!
Of course, you shouldn’t necessarily listen to me. As you’ve read, I’m still at my job. But I have created the six not so easy steps to leaving it so stay tuned to my progress and see if they really work!
|Recommended: Fly On the Wall Club|
|Serious about quitting your job? Learn from a Super Affiliate how to build your business on the web and become your own boss! Watch Colin McDougal build an online business step-by-step as part of the Fly On the Wall Club.|
Today is a good day to shop. As was yesterday and will be tomorrow. At least that’s what retailers would like you to believe. Having a Sales Event is a favorite weapon in the arsenal of sellers and the fifth in the Sales Tactics Revealed series.
Shop, Shop, Shop
Why is it that every holiday seems to be all about shopping? We finally get a day off work, a break from earning money all week. We finally have time all to ourselves. At last, we can forget about the office and do whatever we want, yet the retailers get us to hit the stores looking for deals. How do they convince us, by having a “fabulous” sales event!
Reasons to Shop
The sellers have turned every holiday or life event into either a day we shop or a day we shop to prepare for. Every time you walk into a store, they are reminding you of some event that you need to spend money on, for example:
- Beginning of Summer
- Back to School
- Father’s Day
- 4th of July
- Labor Day
- March Madness
- Mother’s Day
- Valentines Day
- New Years
- Memorial Day
When there is no holiday or life event, they make up reasons to have a big sales event:
- Inventory Sale
- Customer Appreciation Event
- Spring Cleaning Sale
• 4th of July Blowout • Holiday Sales Event
• Open now for our special Thanksgiving offer
• Countdown: 3 weeks, 2 days, 5 days until Christmas
Tactic in Action
Why do we drag ourselves out of bed the day after Thanksgiving? We have a day off, why can’t we just enjoy it? Why do we have to spend all day long being stressed out and waiting in line? I’ll tell you why, Black Friday is the first day of the year some retailers start to make a profit. They WANT you in those stores, they NEED you in those stores, and they’ll do whatever they can to get you there and spending money.
Protect Your Paycheck
Retailers will sometimes stock up on certain items to sell during a sales event. Think decorative lights during Christmas, candy for Halloween, or summer clothes for Beginning of Summer Sale. Once the event, holiday, or season is over they may find themselves with too much of certain products and start discounting it for faster sale. Try to shop at the end of sales events instead of the beginning and you can save money.
Sales Event is the 5th sales trick in the Sales Tactics Revealed series. Be sure to check out the first four as well: Don’t Miss Out, You’ll Be Sorry, Buy Now, Pay Later, and Rebate Ransom.
Why did you sign up for health insurance? Was it to help share the risk and cost of potential health issues across a large group of people? What if some of the people in your group are voluntarily behaving in ways that raise their risk and the cost to you and everyone else? Should you be offered a discount on your deductible for abstaining from those behaviors?
Getting “Credit” for Being Healthy
One of the largest health insurance companies in the US, United
Healthcare, has launched a pilot program called Vital Measures that is intended to “reduce out-of-pocket health care expenses for individuals and families with healthful lifestyles”.
The program creates incentives for its members to adopt healthy behaviors. According to the Kansas City Business Journal, participants in the United Healthcare pilot program take tests to measure their health against body mass, cholesterol, blood-pressure, and nicotine usage benchmarks similar to those set by the National Institutes of Health. Any member that is in line with or better than the benchmarks earns credits towards their deductible.
Is a Health Credit Legal?
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) does contain guidelines about imposing different premiums or deductibles based on health factors. However United Healthcare has implemented the Vital Measures program to use a high-deductible health care plan along with a fully insured supplemental plan from Benicomp Group that can reimburse deductibles or co-payments, which is thought to be exempt from HIPAA.
The press release announcing the pilot program offers the following description:
“A typical Vital Measures program design might combine a $2,500 deductible medical plan with a supplemental plan that allows the employee to earn up to $2,000 in deductible credits if each of the four health benchmarks are met or exceeded. “
Employer Health Costs
The driving force behind Vital Measures is likely the increasing cost of health care that employers are having to shoulder. Companies are looking for ways to lower these costs and United Healthcare responded with a program that encourages plan members to take action to control their health care costs.
The chief medical officer for United Healthcare, Sam Ho, offers an interesting statistic:
“More than 70 percent of health care expenditures in the United States are spent on treating conditions that are lifestyle-related and can be potentially reduced by more healthful lifestyle changes.”
Of course “lifestyle-related” is a pretty broad term which could cover many different things but I can see how some purely optional behaviors could really increase the cost of health care for some people.
Good Idea, Bad Idea?
What do you think? Is this kind of plan a smart move? Do you think its fair to shift more of the cost to the people that choose to engage in higher health risk behaviors?
If you’re happy with the way things are going in your life, you can stop reading and change the channel to some other site. If on the other hand, there are things about your life that you’d like to change then stay tuned and turn up the volume : )
I was listening to some co-workers talk yesterday about the upcoming fall TV schedule and couldn’t believe the conversation they were having. As they planned out their evenings based around TV shows they reserved 3 hours of their life a night plus a few hours on weekends. Based on their schedule, they’ll spend 15-20 hours a week in front of the TV this fall.
Time is Money
I don’t know about you but I would LOVE to find an extra 15-20 hours throughout my week to do something productive. For example, I’ve been neglecting my eBay business lately due to other projects and sales have fallen as a result. If I spent 15-20 hours a week working on it, I could make hundreds of dollars more a month! Check out this great article on the Opportunity Cost of Watching TV.
Improving Your Life
Of course using your time wisely can be about many things other than making money. Think about some of the New Year’s Resolutions you’ve come up with over the years that you haven’t achieved. If you’d have spent 15-20 hours a week working towards them don’t you think you probably would have been successful in reaching more of the goals? Take a look at some of the things people decide they want to do:
- Lose Weight
- Learn a New Skill
- Get a New Job
- Get Out of Debt
- Travel the World
- More Family Time
- Get More Sleep
Don’t these all sound like better things to do than watching television?
The TV Trap
I’m horrible about walking through a room and getting sucked into a TV program but I do my best to fight off the tractor beam of the TV as it pulls me in. It is nice to spend 30 minutes zoning out in front of the television but it’s so easy for 30 minutes to turn into several hours. One of my least favorite feelings is when I get up from the TV and I realize I’ve wasted the night away in front of the screen.
Break Free from TV
Just remember, most anytime you hear a radio report or read an article about someone reaching their goals despite the odds or accomplishing some great feat, that person likely didn’t do it by sitting in front of the television. Keep that in mind next time you think you hear your entertainment center calling your name.
We have your money! We’ll give it back if you follow these specific steps. Make one mistake and we’ll keep the cash!
Sound like a ransom note to you? Think again, it’s actually the crumpled rebate receipt in your wallet! When you buy something with a mail-in rebate the seller is holding the money you “saved” for ransom. The crazy part is that we willingly volunteer our money for ransom AND feel like we are saving money! The Rebate Ransom technique is the next trick we’ll discuss in the Sales Tactics Revealed series.[Photo credit ninjapoodle]
Three Strikes You’re Out
In the heat of shopping frenzy we’re overcome by the seeming great bargain and fall for the rebate, strike one. We pay full price and add the rebate to our “To Do” list. Life gets in the way and we put off submitting the paperwork, strike two. The day before the deadline we rush to mail in the paperwork and overlook a minute detail in the fine print, strike three. We’re out the money!
If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. According to a Business Week article from 2005 an estimated 40% of people fail to apply or have their application rejected for rebates every year. This is a very effective tactic; retailers get us to focus on the discount price while still charging the full amount. With so many people not redeeming their rebates for one reason or another they’ve found a way to offer discounts without actually honoring it almost half the time!
• Only $1 after Rebate! • Free After Rebate
Tactic in Action
I think most everyone has encountered this scenario at least once so an example probably isn’t needed. Whether we’re too busy to mail it in, we lose the receipt, we don’t feel like sorting through the terms & conditions of each rebate, or the check just never comes there are many reasons why rebates fail to pay out. Despite all these problems, we continue to fall for this sales tactic. What can we do to protect ourselves against it?
Protect Your Paycheck
Often times, the price after rebate really is a good deal IF you can get your money back. Before you decide to purchase the item, schedule the date when you’ll mail in the rebate information. Write the date the rebate is due on your receipt at the checkout counter. Then when you get home login to Rebate Reminder and setup a reminder so you don’t let your money go unclaimed.
Time Is Money
Remember, time is money. How much time will you spend getting back your money from the rebate company? Is it worth the money you’ll save? Sometimes it feels like sending in your rebate info is more paperwork than buying a house or doing your taxes! Want to see how much time other people have wasted, just do a Google search on “rebate hell”.
What Box Do I Check for Tax-back?
When you purchase an item with a mail-in rebate you pay tax on the full price, not the price after rebate. Guess what, there’s no box on the rebate form to check to get your money back. On a big ticket item such as home appliances, big screen televisions, or computers that tax can add up. Remind yourself that you’re taxed on the purchase price, not price after rebate.
Rebate Ransom in the 4th sales trick in the Sales Tactics Revealed series. Make sure to familiarize yourself with the first three as well: Don’t Miss Out, You’ll Be Sorry, and Buy Now, Pay Later. If you’ve gotten something out of this series, you can subscribe via feedreader or email for coverage of upcoming sales tactics.
I hate shopping and I hate spending money. Of course this means when something I own breaks or falls apart I’m not very happy because I have to go out and buy another one! I own one pair of dress shoes that are unfortunately on the decline.
The soles have been coming off of the work shoes for a while now, when I took them in last summer to be fixed, the shoe shop said they couldn’t be repaired. I’ve stretched them another year but things aren’t looking good. The crack in the sole keeps getting bigger and one of these days I’ll lose the whole heel. Needless to say I’m not looking forward to that day.
I should probably start looking around for bargains so I don’t have to make an emergency purchase down the road but I really hate shopping so I think I’ll put it off for a while longer : ) No new shoes for now. Here are some personal finance articles you shouldn’t put off reading this week.
-A Visual Guide to the Morningstar Mutual Fund Comparison Tool @ Generation X Finance
-Making Sense of the Recent Market Volatility @ Generation X Finance
-Who Is Responsible For Lead In Toys? @ Money, Matter, & More
-Saving Tips For New Parents: Get Ready For Baby! @ The Digerati Life
-Some Ways That We Are Thinking Small @ Lazy Man & Money
-Analyze Mutual Fund Costs with FINRA’s Mutual Fund Expense Analyzer @ Suns Financial Diary
Congratulations to No Credit Needed and Get Rich Slowly for their recent addition to the Money Blog Network! Both wonderful personal finance sites, No Credit Needed talks this week about How To Create A Budget If You Have Irregular Income and Get Rich Slowly is upgrading to handle the constant flood of visitors that come to read his insightful content.
-Having A Goal Helps You Be Frugal @ Blueprint for Financial Prosperity
-How You Can Earn Over Cash Back with Credit Cards @ Free Money Finance
-Making money with an eBay Store, Part 4: Obtaining product at the right price @ Mighty Bargain Hunter
-“Borrowing” Money from an IRA @ Five Cent Nickel
-Make Money From Your Own Videos With Revver @ My Money Blog
-10 Reasons Credit Cards Are Good @ Cash Money Life
I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw this hang tag advertisement on our door handle today. There are actually companies that you can hire to clean up your pet’s waste!
A Google search on pet waste removal services led me to an Entrepreneur.com article from about a year ago where they called it “one of the hottest homebased pet businesses around today.”
The article points out that the initial investment is minimal and the returns can be great. Check out the fees these guys charge, the cheapest is $50 a month. That’s more than I pay for cable!
I don’t own a dog and agree that picking up their mess might be kind of undesirable but I don’t think I’d ever pay $50 a month to have someone else do it. Under the “Why Choose Us” section of their website they say “Sure it’s something you could do yourself, but consider all the things you could be doing.” Seriously, how long does it take to clean up after your dog?
If you have two dogs and they come more twice a week, you could be paying almost $100 a month for pet waste removal. If you have more dogs, they clean more frequently, or have a big yard, the price just gets worse! That seems a lot to pay, imagine all the other things you could do with that money. What do you think? Do you own dogs? Would you pay someone to clean up after them?
Think back to a shopping trip where you almost made a purchase but wisely walked away because you couldn’t afford it. Bad news, the marketing gurus have found a way to stop that from happening! When your better judgment screams NO, they use the “Buy Now, Pay Later” sales tactic to ease you into a big purchase.
This tactic is a retailer’s dream come true. They can sell to us whether we can afford it or not! They get us to spend money we don’t even have on what they’re selling. Instead of feeling uneasy about being able to pay for it, we feel satisfied, like we got something for nothing.
All About the Payment
Buy Now, Pay Later is dangerous for consumers because it puts our focus on the size of the payments, instead of whether we can afford the item. The sellers love this approach; it breaks down our resistance to spending and makes their sale so much easier.
Using this tactic, the people selling to us delay our decision of whether we can afford something until AFTER we agree to buy it. The financial implications of the sale sneaks up on us after the sellers already have our money and we’ve passed the return period. The bad news is this isn’t even the worst thing about the tactic.
Guess What, There’s Interest!
First the retailers convince us to buy from them using their store brand credit card, whether we have the money or not. Then they add in finance charges on the money we borrow to buy something from them. So they fool us into feeling as though we can afford their item and then jack up the price by tacking on exorbitant interest!
This tactic works out pretty well for the seller, more sales and extra interest income. Unfortunately, for every winner there is a loser. While they make out, we consumers get hosed.
• Low Monthly Payment • No Payments for 1 Year
• Only $40 a Month • No Money Down!
• 90 Days Same As Cash • Just 3 Easy Payments!
Tactic In Action
“I’m paying in cash”, I said for what felt like the millionth time. The blank stare made it obvious he didn’t encounter this situation frequently and wasn’t sure what to try next.
The Buy Now, Pay Later tactic began soon after the test drive, once we started talking dollars with the car salesman. “What kind of payments are you looking to make?”, the salesman asked. “It’s not size of the payment, it’s about the price of the car!”, I shot back. “I’ll be paying in cash and am looking to get the lowest price I can.” He furrowed his brow then launched into his pitch. “I can put you into this one here for under $400 a month.”
After re-iterating I was paying cash, he came back with the same tactic again. “No point in paying it all up front, how low do you want your payments to be?” The Buy Now, Pay Later tactic must usually be so successful that he didn’t have any other tricks up his sleeve! After several more of his attempts, I finally made it clear I was interested in the final price and wouldn’t be distracted by talk of low payments. After we negotiated a sales price it was on to the sales manager’s office.
“I’m paying in cash”, I responded to the manager’s spiel about a special financing offer. He scowled and asked, “Why pay for it all now? Why not keep the money and finance through us?” After several rounds of refusing financing he realized they weren’t to make any money off us via this tactic.
At that point, he mixed in the You’ll Be Sorry tactic. He talked about the potential problems an extended warranty would cover and “strongly encouraged” us to buy it. I told him of our plan to put money away every month to cover any future auto expenses, this way we’d only have to pay in the event something went wrong. “If you buy the extended warranty you’ll be covered right away. You don’t have to pay for it up front; we can roll it into your loan.” Once again, I reminded him we were paying cash and firmly refused the extended warranty.
Upon realizing we weren’t going to fall for either the You’ll Be Sorry or Buy Now, Pay Later tactics, the manager quickly finished the paperwork and rushed us out of his office so he could focus on the next customer.
Protect Your Paycheck
The Buy Now, Pay Later tactic can eventually lead to mountains of debt if not overcome. Here are some things to keep in mind as you try to beat this strategy.
Lifetime Payment Plan
You can pay for anything given enough time. According to the US Census Bureau the annual household income for 2006 was around $48,000. Based on those numbers, the average person earning this income each year would earn well over $1 million in their lifetime. So if you think about it, on a payment plan you can afford most things being sold to you, right?
Let’s stop and think about this for a minute. Think about how much you hate making payments every month. Why create more for yourself? Who wants to be on a payment plan their whole life?
You Really Will Pay Later
The majority of people who buy on a payment plan end up paying more than sticker price for an item. Interest charges or late fees can add up to 35% onto the total price. Sellers know if you fall for Buy Now, Pay Later, they can keep making money off you with late fees and interest charges far into the future.
Your Electronic Speeding Sign
Before easy credit, we only spent what we had. Now companies are extending credit to practically everyone and we can spend on whatever someone wants to sell us. Charge cards make it so easy to swipe and carry; we often don’t realize how much we’re spending until we get the bill at the end of the month. What we need is something to remind us of how much we’re spending day to day.
How many times have you cruised past one of these electronic speed signs on the side of the road and been surprised at how fast you were actually going? Today’s powerful and comfortable cars and (relatively) smooth highway systems make it easy to be unaware of our driving speed. Similar to the way charge cards allow us to obliviously spend over our budget.
Some companies offer a feature that you can think of as an electronic speeding sign for your credit card. You can setup telephone and email alerts to let you know if you have spent more on your card than you have budgeted. Adding alerts for charges over a certain amount, a certain percentage change in your balance, or a certain balance exceeded can be your own electronic speeding sign to remind you that you’re falling for the Buy Now, Pay Later tactic.
That wraps up the third sales trick in the Sales Tactics Revealed series. If you haven’t already, be sure to read the first two, Don’t Miss Out and You’ll Be Sorry. If you’ve gotten something out of this series, you can subscribe via feedreader or email for coverage of upcoming sales tactics.