Friday, November 19, 2010

free money!

Does that title sound like spam or what?

Well, hopefully, if you are still reading this, your spam reaction must not have been sufficiently violent to close the window immediately, assuming that I must be about to offer you a chance to free the President of Nigeria for only a small payment, etc. Or earn 22.2 percent interest on a no-hassle investment. Or turn your jewelry and silver place settings into CASH NOW!!!!

No, I'm not offering any of those things.
I'm offering something better.

A touch of American nostalgia and a little precious metal. 

We are rapidly approaching our FIRST BOX checked SOLELY through website income!

Not bad, considering we only post a few times a month these days.

To celebrate, we will be having a CELEBRATORY GIVEAWAY.

Someday soon, after the mark has been reached, we will open up the floor for our readers to enter this contest. (To enter we'll ask you to do a few basic things like comment on our blog, link to the blog post from your blog, and click on our ads.)

And then one lucky reader will receive some US minted silver. Why? Because I was a coin collector as a kid, and I've got all these coins lying around. Plus, silver is becoming a safer and safer investment these days. 

Talk to ya'll about this again soon.


Friday, November 12, 2010

the list of our dear friend Craig...

People are always throwing away furniture. It's in your home, you want to replace it with something, so you put it in the alley or bring it to the dump. Problem solved.

However, this is a perfect opportunity to make some money.

These couches, for example. Cash in the trash.
So you sell them. On CRAIGSLIST! 

Once, I had a hideous green couch that I got from some relatives. Distant relatives. Wife's parent's cousin's relatives. Bottom line: couch was free and ugly.

I put it up on craigslist, just to see what offers I could get and sold it for $120!

Accounting recap: 
Initial investment = $0.00
Final sale value = $120.00

Net Profit = $120.00.

If only that worked every time. But let me run through a list of other things that have worked:

Bedroom set: bed, side tables, dressers:
Bought: Free  Sold: $100
Coffee Table:
Bought: Free  Sold: $25
Ugly Couch #2:
Bought: Free  Sold: $50
Ugly Couch #3: (thank goodness for slipcovers)
Bought: Free   Sold: $35
Cool Chair in Disrepair:
Bought: Free  Sold: $25
TV's found in our Apartment Storage Unit:
Bought: Free  Sold: $15 & $25
Obviously we've got something good going here. If only I could accumulate a free inventory of furniture I could be quite a businessman. What a business model.

But how does one sell on Craigslist? Isn't it a hassle? Aren't people untrustworthy? What if I don't want strangers in my home?

Step One: 
Take pictures of it looking its best. You don't want pictures of it upside down or in storage or at night. Dress it up nice and take a good picture.

 Step Two:
Get it out of your living space! If you want this thing gone, move it to the basement, the back entryway, a storage unit. Save your sanity while you try to sell it. This has the added benefit allowing you to deal with potential buyers in a place other than inside your home, such as a garage or storage area.

Step Three:
Describe it accurately, only put your phone number on the listing if you want to. Be selective about your offers. Be totally competitive. If people are coming to see your item, ask them to call you before they leave, or call them 15 minutes before they are supposed to arrive before you start getting ready for them. This way you won't be disappointed an hour later when they call and cancel. Bring the item of furniture out of your home for additional safety if you desire. Specify cash up front and have change ready. Be firm! Let them know other people are interested. Ask $25 more than you really expect and then take less if you want.

And of course:

this book couldn't hurt.

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Making Money with Craigslist

Good luck!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Art of the Haggle

So here's a scene you don't see too much anymore: brightly lit grocery store, customer with a cart full of items, shopkeeper running the items through the scanner when the customer says, "Five dollars a pound for those cantaloupes is pretty expensive. Would you take three?"

Gone are the days when you could dicker with the shopkeep when buying ponchos.

Why don't we see that anymore? Because it doesn't work it huge supermarkets. You can't haggle your way down with a cash register clerk. You can't even do it with the manager at the chain store supermarkets. It would be, in a word: ridiculous. Not only would it never work, it would embarrass everyone around you, particularly loved ones.

However, there are still an entire world of situations in the modern world where you can haggle. And sometimes you just have to go looking for them. Great opportunities for this exist at farmer's markets, antique stores, thrift stores, garage sales, offers and really any small business where the owner of the business is the person you're talking to. Non-chain service stores such as repair shops, contractors, and design/art studios are perfect examples of this. 

There are two basic strategies involved in the art of the haggle:

"Its Not Personal; It's Business." For this mindset you have to believe that you aren't taking advantage of this person, you're simply getting the best price both of you can afford to give. They want your business, and you don't want to pay more than you have to. To this end, you can comparison shop, ask for better prices using competitor's advertisements and offers, and interact with these businesses as if you were getting bids on a construction contract, for example. Act as if the entire operation is a business transaction, not a personal one, and this can be very successful. However, this is not the best tactic with extremely personal sellers, such as artists and garage salers.

"Quick and Painless." For the more personal business transaction (think, buying a knicknack at a garage sale or a spur of the moment purchase) follow a few guidelines. If the price is $35 and you want to pay $20, offer $15 and be prepared for them to lower the price to $25. Counteroffer $20 or pay the $25 if you feel it is a fair price. The key to this type of tactic lies in the details. Have your cash ready so that you don't need change, as this just increases awkward downtime during the transaction. Don't be afraid to note something that might be wrong with the item or another reason to justify lowering the price. ("Do you have the missing kickstand for this bike anywhere? No? Oh, well would you take $20 for it then?") 

2/3rds of the time, this will probably work, and the truth is that people would rather be offered deals that they have the power to say no to then never sell their item. So be fearless and confident. And never try to haggle if it makes you feel bad (in a developing country, from your relatives, etc.)

Try it - it can't hurt!


Monday, November 1, 2010

hi, olivia here

i've been MIA lately on this blog, and i apologize.  
jack's been doing a great job apparently!  i love what he has set up with the ads and the clicking and everything.  
i have been busy with my fitness instructor class.  a little too busy - hopefully it will settle down soon.

we scored a few GREAT furniture finds on Craigslist last week.  a FREE bookshelf and a small hutch/tv stand that looks a bit mid-century modern, and is very cool.  i should be more regular in my craigslist free-stuff browsing, because we are really wanting some more furniture to help us organize things.  

let's see, as far as money-saving goes, i think we have settled into a new mindset, and it's so good.  the other day i was really craving this restaurant near us, and i mentioned it to Jack since we were downtown and close by.  i think in the past he would have said, "you want to?  sure, let's go." but this time he said that he really didn't think we should.  it flashed through my mind that this answer could be really disappointing and annoying, but my honest reaction was relief.  we didn't need to go out to eat, we were on our way home, and that he stuck to his gut, and our convictions, was really reassuring to me. 

we're talking about the small purchases as well as the big ones, and verbalizing it all helps us appreciate the value of each dollar.  

{but you know that we also don't want to become stodgy and stuffy with money... so it's a balance between digging in our heels and saying NO, and choosing to let go a little bit and say YES.}

fun fun fun.

i will also be honest and say that there is this $50 table that i am having a hard time either choosing to say NO to and forgetting about, or figuring out a way to raise/earn $50 extra dollars to buy.  It would be the perfect craft/dining table, and to be quite frank, i just WANT IT.  

more to come on that.  

thanks for reading.  this blog has been such a joy for us!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

You bunch of Clickers.

Wow. Yesterday we had more add clicks than we have had in all of our previous history combined. We had a 26% click-through-rate, which means that one in four of you clicked on our ads yesterday. I'm betting you did this just because I asked you to, and not because you were interested in revitalizing the look of your eyebrow hair.

Google's AdSense gives you all these tools to dissect your audience information. We know the number of advertising clicks, the number of page views, where in the world the viewers are living, and what websites are referring them to us! It's pretty fascinating, you can generate reports, compare trends and launch new advertising campaigns (although we can't control what ads come onto our site very well - so unfortunately you'll have to put up with these shenanigans on the right side.)
And so we doubled our advertising revenue, bringing us closer and closer to a debt-free life. Maybe I should just end every post with a desperate plea for clicks on our ads. Like this: we can't earn website income without you!

(It's true: Google won't count it when we click on our own ads. Not that we've tried or anything.)


Friday, October 29, 2010

A Penny Made is a Penny Paid (to the Credit Cards)

So we've finally gotten the hang of using our blog to make money - luckily our Blogger blog is connected to the Google empire, so we have automatic advertising built into our site if we want it, a serious blessing when compared to other blog sites like WordPress which do not include advertising, and make it very difficult if you want to include it on your own. (Think learning and using complex computer code: very 1980s Apple IIe.) 

So we've covered our blog in advertising, which admittedly hurts the aesthetics but will hopefully translate to some real money - ideally more and more as our blog "takes off." This process really is the old hope of any writer, waiting to be discovered, but in the blogging world it is much more anonymous, much more random.

While we apologize for the clutter of these random links and text which most likely are referencing things that you have been searching for lately,  so know that each time you see them, and especially each time you click on them, you will be helping us get out of debt and helping another family to boot when we donate these profits in the future. The most dramatic effect comes each time one of these highly personalized and yet anonymous ads is clicked, which pays big. Real big. 

While we still have a long way to go before Google will let us cash out any of our advertising earnings ($100 minimum payouts - not ideal for small-time bloggers like us) we are excited as that day draws closer. An entire box checked off our Debt Checklist just from people like you clicking on random links!

Just think "helping them + 1 other" when you click on: "Eliminate Debt with These 3 Weird Old Tips" or "100% Guaranteed Snake Oil" or "Exfoliate Your Back Hair Now."  You'll be doing a great thing, and you will have learned something about back hair exfoliation, weird old debt tips or snake oil.

And you will have our thanks.


[Thanks to the Carnival of Debt Reduction for featuring this post at Many thanks to all who clicked! _jack]

Saturday, October 23, 2010

the cleaning supplies plan

We are natural cleaning supplies people - something that wouldn''t necessarily translate into lowering our credit card debt. However, we have a plan that so far has been working very well.

When we were making our wedding registry, we included a lot of high-quality natural cleaning products, such as Seventh Generation, Method, and Mrs. Meyers. We also included plenty of the refill packs, knowing these were the kind of things we would appreciate down the road. We ended up receiving almost all of what we asked for, with many of our guests bundling them into attractive bathroom sets in garbage cans, etc. 

However, eventually those refills began running out, and we decided to refill them ourselves. We found a huge bottle of Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day All-Purpose Cleaner concentrate on sale, and have been refilling our various bottles with distilled versions of this.

Do regular toilet cleaners do a better job cleaning the toilet than this makeshift version? Not noticeably. When it comes to the cleanliness of your toilet, clean is clean. 

And this stuff smells way better.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

slow savings days = free amazon eBook

It already feels like it is harder to save money when you are busy, possibly because it is harder to make money when you are busy and so much easier to spend it out of "convenience." We have been on the go non-stop this week, and it is pretty clear from our bottom line that we are going to have to catch up next week or even this weekend. 

For now, I am going to take advantage of this offer on for a FREE Kindle eBook:

 Amazon is offering this book FREE for a limited time, so I downloaded the Kindle app (which is free and can be viewed on a number of phones, computers and other devices.)
If I can't seem to save money right now, at least I can learn about how to save money in the future...right?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

$20 date

Well, we haven't been posted for two days or so because - - really, nothing has happened in the Barley Barn of Personal Finance. 

We did break our own rule a little bit tonight and went on a $20 date.  I'm going to go out on a limb here and say it was a great choice.  The food was delicious.  I had tortilla soup, Jack had a pizza with prosciutto, cheese,  garlic and caramelized onions.  The real to-die-for was the bread and butter, served in a terra cotta pot.  The butter was whipped to perfection with some kind of chipotle/sweet sauce, and I was basically licking it out of the little ramekin.  Which is not an exaggeration... 
Maybe tomorrow we'll go back for a $5 date, just for the butter.  It was also a great date because we both ended up having really busy days, so we had a lot to talk about.   And then we came home, and are now watching episodes of Modern Family online... and I just wanted to pause and blog about it, because it was the best kind of splurge.  
We have read and heard that it is absolutely essential to have a few splurges along the way, in order to keep on track with your goals, and in order to feel like your entire life is not wrapped up in saving saving saving... Not going on occasional dates would cost us far more than $20 in the end, and we are aware of that. 

Yum.  I can't stop thinking about that butter.  

("Maybe we could learn to make it?" -Jack)

YES.  Then we could eat it EVERY DAY.

(We would like to thank the Carnival of Debt Reduction for featuring this post on their weekly Debt Reduction update, which you can view here: Thanks to mbhunter for recommending that we submit our site!)

Friday, October 15, 2010

First Milestone!

Celebration is in order.

We have paid off our first $1,000 ($1,200 really) and are renewing our energy into the construction of this blog. We want it to become something truly helpful.

 One of our big discoveries this month was that Citibank, one of our credit card account holders is offering a reward to it's cardholders by giving them 20% of any payments they make over their minimums!
The max amount you can earn each month is your monthly interest amount, so you can be darn sure we will be getting our max each month for the next five months, effectively negating our interest!

Is there anything more exciting than personal finance?


Jack's two cents

It really is freeing to write so openly about one's money. The stigma of moneytalk is one of the things that make it so easy for married couples to avoid discussing it. We all have experiences and baggage wrapped up in our feelings about money, and these feelings definitely contribute to the way we handle it.

Just imagine this hanging over your dining room table.

This public declaration of our state of fiscal emergency is like having a huge whiteboard in our apartment, with ideas and problems and solutions scribbled all over it, reminding us of our current situation and encouraging us on to find the solution. It's like having one of those fund-raising thermometers tacked up in our living room. (By the way - if anybody has a good link to one of those gadgets we would love to use one on our blog to show our progress, but we can't find one anywhere.)

As we check off more boxes, I find myself getting more frustrated about the biggest danger of credit card debt: interest payments.

Last month we paid $87.54 just for the pleasure of being in debt to these credit card companies. $87.54! And we are paying far less interest than the average consumer, thanks to low-interest cards and an interest-free introductory period whose end is approaching quickly. According to, the average credit card interest rate for October 2010 is 16.75%, so for an average borrower in our position, they would be paying $4,020 a year, or $335 a month! And this is assuming no fees, fines, compounded interest or other dangers.

This is where the dreaded "snowball effect" comes into play, and can swamp families that aren't prepared. It is most frustrating to me, knowing that each month of interest payments is another box we can't check yet.

Our plan: Know our interest rates. I have made a list of all the various interest rates, and will be paying off the high rates first. Transferring balances to introductory rate cards if possible can be helpful, as often this original fee will only equal what one month of interest payments would cost you, and you will save money over the rest of that interest-free period.


Friday, October 8, 2010

feeling a little wobbly today

3 more boxes checked off... We are almost to our first $1,000 mark!  

Spent my $10 allowance yesterday on iTunes music.  Felt GREAT about it.  I love having new music.  I bought 2 smaller albums - the Blind Pilot "iTunes Sessions EP" and the Gregory & the Hawk "The Boats and Birds EP".  Both are awesome; I've had them on shuffle/repeat since yesterday. 

I've felt very tempted this week to buy things.  Almost bought a $16 notebook yesterday at Paper Source for my class, and then realized that I didn't really love it, didn't need it, and was wanting a new notebook because I'm wanting SOMETHING to make me feel more secure and confident about my decision to take this class.  
How often have I done this in my life?  Many, many times, I am sure, and it's not good.  
We were standing at the cash register, and I said, "You know what, nevermind."  I felt relieved immediately.  That is a good sign; as a rule I tend to put lots of things back right before I get to the cash register, and tell myself that if I'm still dreaming about it the next day, I'll come back.  99% of the time, I never think about the put-back things again. 

What I needed to do was find security inside myself, not as a result of a crisp, artsy new notebook.  

I should say need, not needed - because I am still feeling insecure about this class.  Can I really be a fitness instructor??  It's hard - you have to show your stuff in front of everyone, and I'm still such a beginner, and others are so much better than I am...

All the more reason to realize that a notebook is not going to help me!  
haha... doesn't it sound so ridiculous now?  But that is truly where my mind went... "Ahh, I'm feeling unsure of myself - a new notebook will help me feel strong and capable and smart!!"

Silly!  It's so silly.  

But I can see that I am learning, and my mentality is changing a little bit.  With each relief-filled item put back on the shelf and declared unnecessary for my happiness, security, and self-worth, I am gaining control.  And that, my friends, is the goal here. 


Tuesday, October 5, 2010


woo hoo!

5 boxes checked off since September 25th!

and with Jack's eBay sales, we will probably check off a few more either today or tomorrow.  

He has been so disciplined about looking at thrift stores and garage sales for things to sell - and then he brings them home and has such a quick turnaround!  Nothing just sits around, waiting to be sold.  I love his system, and I am so proud of him for doing this, because with such huge profits it really starts to feel like "free money!!"  : ) 

I did some grocery shopping yesterday and broke our every two-week rule, because we ended up running out of things like eggs and butter and milk.  I was baking bread and making cookies for our small group, so I felt like it was necessary.  We might have to be flexible with the two week rule, and maybe do one BIG shopping trip every two weeks, but also be willing to do a very small run for necessities every week.  I don't know.  I don't want to be weak sauce about it.  Since it's still the beginning phase of all of this, we are giving ourselves some wiggle room to figure it all out.  

Thursday, September 30, 2010

blogger beginner

Just getting the hang of this blogging thing.  

I am excited about the "pages" option.  It feels more like a real website than just a normal diary/blog with organized sections.  

It's fun to blog about this!  

I know we will look back on these days and smile because we are
just so gung-ho!

But we need to hype this up as much as possible!  The more we put our goals into writing, the more likely we are to stick with them.

Thank you to everyone who has come over to check out our blog... It makes us excited just to see that 31 strangers have looked at it.  

And nervous.  We REALLY have to stick with our plan.  

We will!  

We are committed to each other and to living debt-free FOR LIFE. 

$10/week & Taking It Personally

I spent the first of my $10/week allowance today.  
Bought coffee at a coffee shop on the way to work.  
It felt so good!  I've had this $10 in the back of my mind all week, wondering what to spend it on.  

In the old days, $10 would be long-gone by now.  I probably would have gone to a coffee shop at least once, and made some kind of other purchase at the grocery store or something.  

I'm learning to love making things at home like special coffee drinks, iced coffee... And spending time doing things at home that I love.  I've been getting back into knitting and crocheting... and we've been watching some great movies.  We love our place.

I feel settled in a new way.  Courageous and convicted and like I am doing the right thing.  

Now if I could just drag myself to the gym since we still have a membership we can't get out of.
(working on that!) 

found a great quote on Confessions of a Young Married Couple the other day:

"And no matter what end of the spectrum you find yourself, the first thing to remember about money is that you can’t take it personally
I know, I know.  It’s your money.  Of COURSE its personal.  And I’m not saying that it isn’t personal.  I’m just saying you can’t take it personally.  Having the discussion (and subsequent discussions throughout the rest of your marriage) about money is already hard, but it helps to talk about it as if the two of you are starting a small business.  And you sort of are.  Operating a family budget makes you the CFO of your own company, your own little empire.  And you can’t be a good CFO if you take every discussion about money personally."

This was a helpful quote, because money feels so personal.   Our deep-down reasons for getting into this much debt are insecurity, lack of self-control and who knows what other reasons - but they are most definitely personal!  (Even if we'll talk about them here)  That's what makes the decision to face the facts and pull out of it that much harder!  We have only ourselves to blame, and we have only ourselves to save us. 

And we need to address this in a business-like fashion.  As though we are the CFO's of our own company.  Our debt payoff company.   It helps to not get bogged down in hopelessness to think about it this way. 

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Ok, so we are both feeling really committed to this cause.  And a little scared.  But fear is good, in this case.  We need to be afraid enough to never, ever let it happen again.  

Unless anyone is confused, we have $23,900 in credit card debt, not including student loans.  This is partly due to our wedding, and mostly due to carelessness and living above our means.  We have not yet reached the point where we can't make our monthly payments on these cards, and we are thankful that we are catching it in time... but obviously the point is to pay off the entire bill at the end of each month, and that is our goal.

we did our grocery shopping a few days ago.  a lot of vegetables and staples.  we are going to start shopping for groceries every other week, and start using up more food that we have on the shelves instead of running out for more of what we've used up. 

Jack has listed over 30 things on eBay, and we are hopeful about that. In fact, we might already be able to check off a few more $100 boxes from the eBay sales he just made last week. 

Also we are trying to decide whether or not I should take a few classes and become a fitness instructor.  If I do, I can phase out of my old job and into that... which would be really nice, and wouldn't cause a decrease in pay.  But if I decide not to, that money can go directly towards our debt, and would check off a lot of boxes.  

So, we are thinking about that.  I will have to make a decision after the first week of class, which starts next Wednesday.  I'm not going to decide until I've gone to at least one class, so we'll see.  
I have noticed myself holding back from buying any surplus items.  No coffee from coffee shops, no magazines, no extra, unnecessary groceries.  I thought it would make me feel trapped and poor - but it doesn't!  I feel liberated from all of that spending, and I feel smart and like I'm making good choices.  

We are already talking about Christmas.  I already have one present for Jack that I bought before we started this, and it was $40.  We might decide to stick within $50 for each of our gifts, and then focus on handmade for our family/friends.  We have said that we want to do that for the past few years, but haven't put it into practice 100%.  

This Christmas will be about meaning, not money

I feel more cheerful about it already!


Saturday, September 25, 2010

The number: $24,000

The long-term goal: Debt-free by September 2012

The short term goal: $1000/month

The means:

:sell unnecessary possessions on ebay + craigslist (Jack)

:vamp up my (O's) etsy shop - promote it and work hard to sell more.  

:$10 a week personal spending each for coffee dates + small luxuries

:cut back text + data plans

:rejoice with each $100 box check-off and celebrate $1000 milestones (freely.)

:bike more

:grocery shop every other week instead of weekly

:keep the temperature in our apartment warmer when it's hot outside and colder when it's cold outside

:stop gym membership when contract expires in February

:sell clothes at consignment shops

:be grateful for what we have

:stop coveting what others have

:stop turning "wants" into "needs"