What Would You Do With Someone Else’s Money?

I have someone’s money and they won’t return my emails, what should I do? This is a problem I’ve never experienced before and am looking for ideas on how to handle it.

The Problem
I sold an item to a lady on eBay back on April 3rd. She paid the $100 for the purchase and postage right away through PayPal. I went to ship the item and the Postal Service informed me she had provided an address with an incorrect zip code. I’ve contacted the woman 4 times through eBay asking for a correct address but she has not responded to any of my inquires.

I talked with eBay today about the problem and they won’t contact a customer on behalf of a seller. They did give me her phone number, however, when I call the number is no longer in service.

What Should I Do?
I have a phone number that doesn’t work, an email address that isn’t responded to, and a postal address that may wrong. The part that makes it more complicated is I also have her money.

1) Wait for a Response
I’m hesitant to just wait this one out. The woman only has a feedback rating of 2 so she’s not an experienced eBay user. If she is waiting on the item and doesn’t receive it, she might think I ripped her off and leave me negative feedback. In case you’re not an eBay user, keeping my 100% positive feedback is key to continuing sales.

2) Ship the Item
I’m also apprehensive about sending the item to an address that may be incorrect. It could get lost in the mail or returned to me. Either way, I’ll be out money by losing the item or having to eat the extra shipping costs.

3) Refund her Money
I had this item for sale for quite some time before it sold so I’m reluctant to refund her money and start over again. I purchased it for $10 and sold it for $90 so it’s a sale that I’d really like to close out. This may be what I have to end up doing but I’d like to avoid it if possible.

Thanks in Advance
Any ideas would be appreciated, Thanks!

Overcome Confusion & Frustration While Solving Your Money Puzzle

Money concepts can be confusing and overwhelming. There are many things I don’t understand about the world of finance; you could say I see it as a big puzzle.

What are Blue Chips?
Every day on the drive home I used to hear newscasters announce the Dow was up or blue chips were down. I knew up was good and down was bad but I had no idea what the Dow was or what kind of company was classified as a “blue chip” stock. Finally I got tired of not knowing what they were talking about and did a few minutes of research on the Web. As I discovered the meaning behind a blue chip stock and the Dow Jones Industrial Average a small piece of the big money puzzle fell into place.

Gradual Progress
The nice thing about looking at money as a puzzle is that you don’t expect yourself to know it all. If you come across something you don’t understand just realize it’s just a missing piece. You’ll figure it out and over time the “financial picture” will become a little clearer.

The Finished Masterpiece
When you start a puzzle what’s the first thing you do? Put the picture on puzzle box where you can see it so you know what the end result should be. I think the same applies with your money puzzle. If you can visualize what your long term goals are, i.e. the finished masterpiece, then it makes it much easier to put your money puzzle together.

Your Money Puzzle
We all have a different vision of what we want our finished puzzle to look like and we all go about solving the puzzle a different way. If we can visualize the end result and realize that the progress will be gradual rather than immediate, it will motivate us to learn about money and keep us from getting discouraged or overwhelmed. What tricks have helped you overcome frustration and confusiong while putting together your money puzzle?

Earn $75 an Hour By Answering a Few Questions

Have you ever been given money simply for trying something out? I just experienced this last weekend and it’s pretty neat!

New Bank in Town
Marshall & Ilsley Bank opened a new branch in our neighborhood and is looking for new customers. They sent me a flyer in the mail, offering $75 if I’d stop into their bank and open an account.

Valuable Minutes
The whole process took less than an hour and now the bank is going to deposit the money in my account in two weeks. Literally, all I did was sit in a comfy chair for less than 60 minutes and answer a few questions to earn $75. I typically sit in a chair all day long and answer hard questions at work and I’ve never earned $75 an hour! But wait, it gets even better.

Free Credit Report
The bank ran a credit report with TransUnion as part of the new account process. I hadn’t seen mine in quite some time so I asked for a copy of it. The banker said they weren’t allowed to give me the credit report; however, she would let me look it over while I was there. What’s better than a free credit report? Finding out your credit score is sitting pretty sweet at 780.

Curiosity Pays
I’m always skeptical when someone offers something for “free”. However, sometimes it does pay off to investigate a little further. Had I trashed the flyer as I often do for mailers like those, I wouldn’t have made an easy $75 or gotten a free credit report!

Now You Know Why it’s Called “Personal” Finance

Ask six different people for personal finance advice and you’re likely to get six different answers. Sun recently asked several other personal finance writers and his readers their opinion on a reader’s money question and experienced this first hand.

The Good News
A simple question like “what should my mom do with $1100″ received recommendations for investing, creating emergency funds, buying long term care insurance, and paying off a mortgage. The good news is you always have many options on how to use your money.

The Bad News
The bad news is that after hearing everyone else give you options, now you still have to decide what is best for you. Often personal finance questions are answered with words like assumption, phrases like “it depends”, and the closing disclaimer of “consult a financial professional”. Basically every situation is different, so it’s up to you to take their advice tailor it to you personal circumstances. Hence “personal” finance.

The Money Conversation
The inevitable result of one money question is another money question. Typically followed by another, and then another. We see this in action, as Sun posed a follow up money question to the reader for more background on their situation. Sometimes the conversation is between you and a spouse. Sometimes you’re talking with a co-worker or financial planner. Other times, you may simply debate what to do with yourself, playing one scenario against another.

Being Money Smart
These money conversations are why it’s important to understand or learn financial concepts. Being money literate will allow you to evaluate all of your options and make the decision that is best for you. Notice I didn’t say “right for you” because there are so many different factors and unknowns it is hard to ever say what is “right”. In my opinion, all you can do is make the choice that seems best given the information at hand.

Making Financial Decisions
So the good news is we have options but the bad news is that it’s ultimately up to us to decide which road to take. Of course, it’s really not bad news, just a little overwhelming sometimes. After hearing everyone else’s opinion, how do you go about making tough personal finance decisions?

Carnival of Ethics, Values, & Personal Finance #7

Welcome readers, I hope you are feeling ethical and full of values today!  If not, you’re in the right place at the right time.  The articles below will hopefully give you some food for thought about money and it’s place in your life. 

The first half of the articles deal with the ethics and values of personal finance in one way or another. I’ve included a quote from each post to give you a taste of it’s content. The second half of articles consist of interesting posts, not necessarily having to do with ethics or values in my opinion, that you might want to check out if you have time.

Ethics & Values

Wanda presents Why give? (Or, what if you derive no utility from giving?) posted at Well Heeled.

“If giving DOESN’T make you feel better, if you feel NO sense of obligation to people outside your family or community, if you are financially successful and appreciative of what you have WITHOUT giving, if you don’t have a religious reason for being charitable, why would you give?”

Tracy Coenen presents Investigation of Usana points out the problems with MLM posted at FRAUDfiles.

“However, the vast majority of Usana’s “sales” are achieved only thru the marketing of the “business opportunity.” That is, without the promise of riches, the vast majority of distributors would never purchase any Usana products. “

Tim Abbott presents Berkshares: Local Currency Strengthens Community and the Bottom Line posted at Walking the Berkshires.

“Berkshares represent a community reinvesting in itself, rediscovering its history and revitalizing its economic and social prospects through the use of local script.”

Nina Smith presents WWYD: Paying Children for Good Grades posted at Queercents.

“… we ponder if pay for performance is a child appropriate reward system.” 

Stingy Student presents The End of Affirmative Action posted at Stingy Students.

“Affirmative action is holding back minorities much like wealthy parents who give their adult children financial outpatient care”

Henry presents Investing in Life Insurance Policies: How the Grim Reaper Can Make a Ton of Cash. posted at Binary Dollar!.

“The investor buys the policy and continues to pay the premiums until their old person kicks the bucket.”

bdurfee presents Sharing the Wealth posted at Thinking-Rich.com.

“Changing our attitudes toward money can change our lives by making us more open to wealth. Money is not a four-letter word – so use it!”

Ririan presents 22 Useless Myths That Can Cost You Money posted at Ririan Project.

“Money is the root of all evil, I think a much more accurate statement is that the lack of money is the root of all evil”

Web Financial Planner presents How rich is rich enough? posted at Web Financial Planner.

“It’s all a matter of perspective – and summoning up the ability to toss aside the guilt and anxiety and simply take one small, successful step after another.”

David Weliver presents What I’ve Learned About Money posted at Money Under 30.

“Earning a living is hard work; not spending it all is even harder. The root of all evil is not money, but greed.”

Mr Credit Card presents Did Funky Diner Deserve Any Extra Credit Card Tips? posted at Ask Mr Credit Card’s Blog.

“Would you have even gave any extra tip at all?”

Alvaro Fernandez presents Baby Boomers, Healthy Aging and Job Performance posted at SharpBrains.

“… an increasing likelihood that some lawyers may be practicing in less than ideal conditions for their clients, beyond a reasonable ‘brain age’.” 

Leon Gettler presents Gatekeeper lawyers posted at Sox First.

“In effect, the idea would turn lawyers into auditors. The would have to be independent, sceptical and their first duty would be to investors.”

Other Submissions

Samuel Peery presents Applying GTD principles to your personal finances – Part 1 posted at Getting Finances Done.

tc presents Simple Living – 25 ways to save money posted at InvestmentsLoans.net.

Steve Faber presents - How to Save Money Everyday – A Different Perspective posted at DebtBlog.

WBL presents Improve Your Credit Score by 100+ Points posted at Wealth Building Lessons.

ISPF presents Maximizers and Satisficers posted at Grad Money Matters.

The Frugalist presents 27 Fun Ways to Destroy Your Old Credit Card posted at Frugalist.

Bryan C. Fleming presents Saving Money: $704.51 in 14 Weeks posted at Bryan C. Fleming.

Linda presents Why I save my money posted at MoneyMonk.

Kevin Kinchen presents True Success posted at Creative Power of Thought: Thoughts Become Things.

Brandon Peele presents Spiritual Autolysis posted at GT.

John presents WWYD: Use a Coupon on a First Date? posted at Queercents.

FIRE Getters presents Experiences – Availability of Funds After Cashing a Big Check posted at FIRE Finance.

Thanks for reading! You can submit your article to the next edition of Ethics, Values & Personal Finance using this carnival submission form. Have an ethical day :)

Five Baby Tools We Can’t Live Without

When I first read the article, 10 Baby Items You Think You Need, But Really Don’t, I thought it was a delayed April Fools joke. I kept waiting for the part where they said just kidding but it never came! Below are the items I disagreed with the author on. As a parent of a nine-month old baby, I’ve found these things to be great tools in our parenting toolkit. They may have cost us some money but we’re sure glad we have them.

The author argues that most people don’t need bottles. I think most parents will need a few bottles at some point in their parenting career. I agree that nursing is great for the mom and baby. However, my wife works all day. She and many other working mothers need a way to store the milk they pump at work, not sure how they’d do this without bottles.

What do you do when your kid is screaming in the middle of the grocery store? Our first line of defense is to pop in the pacifier. Well worth the cost.

Baby Swing
When you have a newborn baby and you can’t remember the last time you had decent sleep you’ll do anything to get that kid to take a nap. A good baby swing will put them to sleep so it’s worth its weight in gold.

As working parents, we take our son to child care at a women’s home every day. She puts him down for naps in his portable playpen. His pack and play provides a safe and comforting place for him to sleep. Again, worth the money.

After being cooped up all day at work or at the babysitter, our family is ready to get out in the evenings. We take our son for a walk as often as we can, without a stroller this wouldn’t be possible.

I agree there are many things that Babies”R”Us will tell you to buy as a new parent that you don’t really need. In my opinion, the items above are not on that list. They will make life happier and easier for you and your baby.

Would You Settle for 500K or Go for a Million Dollars?

Deal, or No Deal! That’s the million dollar question that contestants must answer on the TV game show hosted by Howie Mandel. How you play along with this game might be a good indication of how you view the risks and rewards of investing.

Financial Risk Tolerance
If you’ve ever done any type of financial planning you’ve probably filled out a questionnaire about how much risk you can tolerate. These types of questions are difficult for me to answer because they’re so general, so impersonal, and the questions often seem out of context with life situations. Deal or No Deal on the other hand breaks it down to a basic decision where your answer might tell you a little about your risk style.

The Rules
The contestants on the game show are faced with a set of cases, each containing a dollar amount they can win, ranging from $1 up to $1 million. They randomly open the cases one at a time, once they’ve opened a case the contestant cannot win the amount of money the case holds.

Behavioral Finance
As the game goes on, the number of cases shrinks and how much they can still win depends on which dollar amounts they have not opened. At several intervals the contestants are offered a certain sum of money to walk away from the contest. For example, late in one game there were four cases unopened. The dollar amounts in the cases were $1,000, $5,000, $20K, and $100K. The lady was offered $24,000 to walk away. What would you do in that situation?

In another scenario the four cases held $75, $750, $500K and $750K. The offer to walk away was $291K. Would you hold out for the chance to win $750K or would you settle for $291K. What captivates you, the potential of winning threes quarters of a million dollars or the fear of losing one quarter of a million? What would you do with that money if you won? How would it change your life? Are you willing to risk a lot of money to make a lot of money?

Find Your Sweet Spot
Obviously this is just an initial screen, to determine what types of investments suit you best would require research and planning on your own or with a professional. However, it does help you understand how you react to the financial pressures of risk and how much you’re willing to lose in return for the potential of a big reward.

How to Use Leverage to Make Money on eBay

Big time real estate investors use leverage to try and make big time profits. You can use leverage on a smaller scale on eBay without exposing yourself to the large amounts of risk that they assume.

As I read JD’s post on leverage yesterday I thought about how I currently use leverage to earn 30% to 200% returns on eBay. JD summarizes the definition of leverage as “borrowing money to magnify returns”. I’m able to borrow money to purchase items to resell for a magnified return.

How is this Leverage?
I buy heavily discounted items at wholesale, outlet, or unclaimed goods stores then sell them on eBay. I borrow money for everything I purchase by charging it on my credit card. I take possession of the merchandise, list it for sale the same day, and haven’t yet paid a cent. Depending on how the purchase date falls in relation to the closing date on my credit card, I might not have to pay anything for the item for almost two months. If it sells in that time period, I’ll have made money on an item without actually putting down any cash.

Why is this Low Risk?
Most places have a 2 weeks to 30 day return policy so if an item turns out to be unpopular you can always return it. If it doesn’t sell right away but you purchased it for a low enough price you know it will sell eventually. By keeping it longer, you are no longer using leverage because at some point you’ll have to pay your credit card bill. However, you did get a month to test the market for your merchandise and help you revise your price point, all without paying a dime.

The upside to a leveraged real estate purchase is you can make thousands of dollars if you sell the property. What happens if you can’t sell it? Until you can get rid of the real estate you’re holding thousands of dollars of debt and monthly payments.

With my eBay approach, the items I’m selling are much easier to sell than a piece of property. If I do some bad market research and can’t sell an item for my target price, I can always discount it heavily to make back a portion of the purchase price. Of course, with less risk, comes less reward. Does the work required to procure, advertise, sell, and ship the items pay off?

Is it Worth My Time?
Real estate investors borrow large sums of money so they stand to make large sums if leverage works in their favor. In my case, I’ll earn $15 – $150 per item sold. I won’t get rich on one or two transactions but the income adds up over time. You can use this version of leverage to build up capital so when that great business opportunity does materialize you’ll have the money to jump in.

Not only will this give you the money you need for a business venture but it will teach you about market research, customer service, managing cash flow, product pricing, dealing with risk, copywriting, and other business skills vital to an entrepreneur. So what are you waiting for, get started today!

Personal Finance Week in Review – Yardwork Edition

Now that Spring is here the yardwork calls. I mowed our grass for the first time this season on Friday and then teamed up with a few neighbors yesterday to rent a power rake and do some spring cleaning on our yards. It seems silly to spend so much time and money on just maintaining grass, maybe I should just dig it up and haul in a bunch of crushed stone. Anyhow, here are some good money articles for the week.

Of course there are many more great articles to choose from in the blogosphere, you can always check out the most popular articles at pfblogs for some good reading. Happy Easter!

Always Ask for a Discount

I just ran across a new site called Tricks of the Trade that collects and shares “nifty occupational secrets”. People who have gained inside knowledge by working in a certain industry share their tips with the world.

A recent tip from an anonymous hotel manager is a good addendum to my post Ten Ways to Ask for a Lower Price or a Better Deal. The hotel discount post recommends another way to save.

Always ask for a business discount. You may not have a business, but you work for one–and even if you don’t, how would I know? The worst that will happen is someone will say no.

Most motel and hotels have corporate discounts. Nobody tries very hard to find out how legitimate people’s business claims are, and most of us secretly don’t care.

So there you have it, straight from the horse’s mouth. This tip could be especially useful if you’re staying for more than a night or two. The business discount could really add up if you stay some period of time. Thanks to Matthew Baldwin for putting this site together, I imagine it will be a great place to look for other money saving tips.

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