How to Have a Successful Garage Sale

Shortly before moving from a 2,500 square foot, 3 bedroom home to a 500 square foot studio I (along with my roommate and original LibertyBelle Ashley) had a garage sale. We both learned a ton and earned over $300 each!unnamed-1

My tips for a successful garage sale:

  1. Put price tags on as many items as possible: Ashley bought a package of circular stickers and we used those to price most things. I found that people were much more likely to buy something with a price on it. They might haggle, or try to combine, but they were less hesitant to ask about pricing if there was already one on there. At first I didn’t think it would matter much, but as we added more and more price tags we definitely saw those items sell faster. unnamed-2
  2. Set everything up the night before, if possible: set-up will take a while. We spent maybe 2 hours laying out the items, and it was much better to have it all ready to go when we “opened” at 9 am. We got a lot of foot traffic the first few hours, and if we’d been spending that time also setting up we likely would’ve missed out on a lot of sales.
  3. Do your best to display items close to eye-height: we didn’t have a lot of space to display items, but were as creative as we could. Only put items on the ground that are easy to see – boots, pillows, etc. – and group like items together. That way, when someone sees something they like, they’re right near other similar items. Bring any tables, shelving and other furniture you have to the sale; you will use it all for display. You’ll be surprised how much space it all takes up, trust me.unnamed-3
  4. “Hot” items might surprise you: I definitely thought jewelry would sell easily, along with books and DVDs. They did not. Instead, super dated/old electronics were most in-demand, by far. We sold an ancient desktop computer, a 7 year old laptop, a non-operational Ti89 calculator and a few dated mp3 players. Lamps were another high-ticket item, as were specific types of clothing. Most clothes didn’t see any action at all, but jackets were very popular. Cooking items (pots, pans, blenders, etc.) went fast, while utensils and cups didn’t sell. I’m not sure what the point of a barely functioning laptop (for $20) is, but who cares.
  5. Post beforehand on Craigslist & hang signs: Ashley posted on Craigslist a few days before the sale, giving a general location (don’t put your actual address!) and date/time. We also hung a few signs nearby to increase foot traffic. We’re lucky to live in a pretty heavily trafficked area, but that posting on Craigslist absolutely brought us people. We asked a few who bought a ton of stuff where they’d heard about it (some came in cars) and many of them said they’d seen the CL ad. I highly recommend putting an advertisement in your local paper, if you’re not located in a major city.
  6. The more items, the better: If it had just been my stuff for sale, or just Ashley’s, I don’t think either of us would have sold as much we did. Casual walkerbys were more likely to come check out our sale when there were more items available. As the garage emptied, so did the people. That’s a good problem to have (selling everything), of course, but the more you can bring out to display the better off you’ll be. Even if you’re positive something won’t sell, as long as you’re willing to part with it put it out. I was positive nobody would buy a used comforter set, but turned out I was wrong. An easy $5 and it took up some space that would have been empty otherwise.unnamed-4

Ashley and I both had a great time at our garage sale. We were able to get rid of things we would have otherwise thrown out (or even worse, kept and taken up space in our too-small apartments), made a good amount of money doing it and met a bunch of our neighbors. I can’t wait for my next one!

Saving at the Grocery Store: Where to Start

I’m a couponer. As in, I go to Shoprite armed with a handful of coupons I’ve printed, combine them with sales, use an app like Ibotta after purchasing, and end up saving between 50% and 90% on my shopping trip. I do it because it’s fun for me, and I love the feeling of saving on things like yogurt and pasta sauce.

But I know the majority of people aren’t like me, and think spending half an hour printing coupons before going to the grocery store is a waste of time. And you know what…it might be. But even for those who don’t want to put in the effort or take the time to “coupon” can still save a significant amount at the register with very little effort.

  1. Use your grocery store’s shoppers card: there is no excuse for not having a shoppers card for the grocery stores you frequent. It takes a few minutes to sign up (many offer this option online), and then you can use your phone number at the register to get any discounts offered that week. Sometimes sales are applied without an account, but often if you don’t scan your card you’ll be missing out on a ton of instant savings. And who knows…maybe something is on special and you didn’t even know it.
  2. Buy non-perishables only when they’re on sale: the ultimate savings combination is a sale + a coupon + some other discount (catalina, e-coupon, app, etc.). But that type of planning isn’t easy. However, if you know you bake a ton during the fall, or that you love Progresso soups in the winter, try to purchase those things when you’re at the store and they’re on sale. Sale items are easily 50% off their regular price. If you absolutely need something for that week, and it’s not on sale, of course buy it. But if you can stock up on butter (which freezes fantastically) when it’s on sale, knowing you’ll use it eventually, do that. If you cook with chicken a lot, buy it when it’s a few bucks off per pound (and freeze it until you’re ready to use it). I know it can be slightly annoying to have to defrost meat vs. buying and cooking it the same day, but it’s worth the savings. Trust me. Household items like toilet paper are perfect for this rule – full price vs. on sale can differ a ton, so try your best never to “need” to buy these items. Get two or more packs when they’re on sale and pick up more before you run out.
    Cottonelle

    [save $5 on two packs just from a sale]

  3. Use e-coupons, if your store offers them: Tons of large grocery store chains have a website or app, or both, that offer e-coupons. They’re super simple: you enter in your shoppers card number (once!), and then “add” any offers to your account. If you buy any of the items, the amount comes off automatically at the register. I recommend googling to see if your store offers something like this, and if they do sign up and add every offer. They change weekly and monthly, but if you can remember to add new ones every few weeks you should notice some savings. It won’t be as significant as buying items on sale, but it’s too easy not to do. It takes me only a few minutes at the start of every trip to Shoprite to add the new e-coupons to my card, and it’s saved me a lot of money over the past few years.unnamed

For those of you that shop at stores that don’t have shopper’s accounts, or don’t typically put things on sale, you can still try and save here and there. Whole Foods, for example, does have weekly sales. They also have a circular when you walk into the store full of coupons for that week or month. If you can save even $5 a week shopping with the tips above, that’s over $250 a year! But if spending five minutes for $5 doesn’t appeal to you, then ignore everything I’ve said. Enjoy overspending :)

Birchbox (October 2014): A Review

Birchbox is perhaps the most well-known and successful monthly subscription box service. For $10 a month, you’re sent around 5 beauty & lifestyle samples. It’s a great way to discover new brands, and to get a fun package in the mail once a month without feeling like you’re spending tons of money. I’ve been a member on and off for over two years and have nothing but good things to say about the service. Their customer support is fantastic (I had a box get legitimately lost in the mail one month and they sent me a new one, gave me $10 in Birchbox points and my next month free!), the product samples they send are high-quality and often you get one or more deluxe samples full size products. The only reason I’ve paused my subscription is because I tend to collect tons of these samples and take a while to use them.

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Onto what was in my October box:

The total value of my October Birchbox is $23.02. It wasn’t my favorite box ever, but it’s not bad considering it only cost me $10 (or less with an annual subscription). Even better, Birchbox allows you to review each item in your box and gives you 10 points per review (which is worth $1). If you review all your items every month, you’ll earn $5-$6 in store credit to use on anything they sell. Combine your points with one of the frequent coupons Birchbox offers and you’ll get some high-end products for “free” after only a few months of reviewing.

If you’re like me and enjoy getting things in the mail, and are interested in discovering fun and new brands, I highly recommend giving Birchbox a try. If you decide to sign up, be sure to use the promo code bbstore100 to get 100 points (worth $10) free with your purchase!

American Express Small Business Saturday is Back

For the past several years American Express has run a promotion they call Small Business Saturday. On the Saturday after Thanksgiving, they offer some sort of rebate on purchases made (via your enrolled Amex cards) at local businesses – basically anything that’s not a chain. You can sign up every eligible card you have, and then buy a bunch of free stuff.

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It used to be an offer of $25 off any purchase of $25 or more, but last year they adjusted it to $10. Not nearly as good, but still a fun promotion. This year they’ve announced their “highest” offer yet – up to $30 off per registered card, in the form of three $10 reimbursements. You can choose to shop at the same business three times, or shop at three different ones. Totally up to you.

The next step is to sign up all your Amex cards . And just to be sure, you can confirm your business of choice is included here. Registration opens on Sunday, November 16th at midnight Mountain time, so you’ve still got plenty of time. Registration is limited every year so it’s best to sign up early, but I’ve personally never seen it “sell out.”

Since I have three American Express cards, I’ll be receiving $90 in rebates for anything I want at any local business. I love getting “free money” and supporting my local stores and restaurants at the same time. Not much better than that!

RelayRides: How to Own your Car for Free

One of the many things I love about living in Philadelphia is how generally easy it is to street-park cars. While I don’t need a car (I don’t drive to and from work), having one makes my life much easier – I can quickly get to Target and ShopRite, places I like to go 3-4 times a month; the only way to get to my parent’s shore house is by car, so I can get there easily and in under two hours any time I want; while it’s possible to take the train to get home for holidays, having a car save a lot of time and a little money. But since I street park, and I’m not rich, I have no reason to own a “nice” car. Enter my beautiful 2000 Volkswagon Jetta. I bought her on Craigslist three years ago with 80,000 miles for $4,000 and she’s served me very well since then. Yes, she perpetually smells like crayons, there’s an internal oil leak that means I have to add a canister of oil every 300 miles or so, there are scratches everywhere, and it takes about four minutes to go from 0 to 60…but I don’t care.

All totaled it costs me about $60 a month, not including gas, to have a car in Philly: insurance = $39, parking permit = $3, annual inspection = $5, registration, etc. = $5 & oil/other items = $8. This does not take into account larger issues like replacing tires or any other breakdowns, which I have (luckily! don’t jinx!) not had to pay for since buying the car. And my insurance is bare bones – I have high coverages for the people I hit (in the case I’m to blame), but my car itself is not covered at all. On average I use my car once a week during the winter – not counting during holidays – and twice during the summer. Otherwise, it’s parked somewhere on the streets of Philadelphia sitting idle and useless.

Enter RelayRides. They’re a service that allows people to rent out their cars to people looking for daily, weekly or monthly rentals. It’s kind of like a Craigslist meets Zipcar, where the car owner sets the price and the renter chooses whichever car they want to rent. RelayRides provides insurance coverage for your car when it’s rented, handles all payments and aids in communication between all parties.

The Pros:

  1. My car can pay for itself: I have my car priced at $39 a day, which nets me $29 [RelayRides takes 25% of your rental fee to cover everything]. So, if I rent my car two days out of a month all my expenses are covered. If I go above two, I can actually make some money on my car that month! Renters must refill the gas they use so there’s no cost for that. I’ve found that every renter has refilled the gas, and some buy more than they use, which is a nice perk. Mint___Transactions
  2. Once you’re up and running, it’s easy: the online site and app are great, and allow you to see bookings, communicate with buyers, track payments, etc.Your_Car_-_Edit_Price_and_Mileage
  3. I’m helping the environment: this one’s a pretty weak pro, but I like knowing people are renting my car that would otherwise be parked on the side of the road, instead of possibly buying their own car. Doubt it makes much of an impact, but it can’t hurt.

The Cons:

  1. People don’t always treat your car well: they’re renting and not owning, so just like home rentals many people don’t really care if they do small damage. RelayRides covers any actual damage or issues caused by a renter, but small scrapes or scuffs are impossible to track. My car definitely shows some signs of wear it may not have with only me driving it, but my Jetta has never been in great shape so it’s not something that bothers me. One time a renter smoked cigarettes in the car, to the point where the smell was sunken into the seats (I have fabric seats). I immediately told RelayRides and they said they’d reimburse up to $250 to get the car professionally cleaned. I ended up having it detailed and shampooed for $120 and, in the end, my car was much cleaner than before the issue. It worked out pretty well for me, but I could see this being a huge inconvenience and issue for some, especially with more serious damage.
  2. Putting miles on your car does come at a cost: You can set your maximum miles per day allowed, and any amount over that earns you 56 cents per mile. I have my maximum set on the lowest option, 100 miles per day, but that still adds up. Some renters only drive 10 miles and some the full hundred, so the effect on your vehicle’s value over time is something that must be considered.
  3. Dropping off and picking up your keys can be a hassle: I don’t trust renters to understand the Philadelphia parking permit signs, so I strongly prefer to park my car when they drop it off. Usually this is fine, but I have to be available; I could say “drop they key in my mailbox and text me the car’s location” if I wanted, but I’m too nervous to do that. And sometimes I’ve given up a great spot (everyone who parks in a city knows what I mean) and then have a hard time finding another when the car is returned.

Clearly RelayRides is not for all car owners. But if you’re like me and own a car that you don’t have a strong personal connection to (if you freak out about a scratch, I would not even consider it!), it can be a great way to generate a little income each month. I’d also highly recommend it to my non-car-owning friends who rent cars with services like Zipcar, because it can often be cheaper and easier.