Wondering if it would help your Federal tax return to take a deduction for the clothing your donated? The Fat Dollar article – Clothing and Furniture Donations on Your Tax Return was just updated and has links to Goodwill and Salvation Army valuation pages as well as useful information and IRS links. Click the link […]
Ok, maybe your old stuff isn’t worth a fortune, but it could be worth more than you expect. While I was clearing out some of my own clutter, I happened across a 2012 Woman’s Day magazine. (Yes, I did say I was clearing clutter.) An article in the magazine intrigued me. It listed several […]
Now is a good time to review your regular bills. Make a list of the bills that are paid regularly, such as electric and gas bills, internet and TV, cell phone, trash service, home and auto insurance, etc. Start with the monthly bills and select one. Review every line item on the bill. Do you […]
We’re snowed in today, at least until we can get the driveway plowed and get the vehicles out. We had a beautiful, dangerous blizzard yesterday. Today and tomorrow we are under a wind-chill warning. It’s good to be inside and I am grateful to have electricity and an internet connection. (And a working boiler.) While […]
Wondering if it would help your Federal tax return to take a deduction for the clothing your donated?
The Fat Dollar article – Clothing and Furniture Donations on Your Tax Return was just updated and has links to Goodwill and Salvation Army valuation pages as well as useful information and IRS links. Click the link to see the article.
What better way to get a tax deduction than by cleaning out your own closets!
Ok, maybe your old stuff isn’t worth a fortune, but it could be worth more than you expect. While I was clearing out some of my own clutter, I happened across a 2012 Woman’s Day magazine. (Yes, I did say I was clearing clutter.)
An article in the magazine intrigued me. It listed several items that “could fetch big bucks on places like eBay”. Hmmm.
Here are the things that were listed as possibly valuable items hiding in your home:
1. Small kitchen appliances – like bread machines, food dehydrators, espresso machines
2. Video Games – check gazelle.com
3. Tacky Sweaters – sweaters decorated with things like pictures, holiday themes, cats – the ones that Aunt Gertrude gave you that you would never, ever wear
4. 1950s Furniture
5. Vintage Electronics – pre-1980s stereo and hi-fi equipment – LP turntables, reel-to-reel tape decks, vacuum tube amplifiers, etc.
6. Lunchpails – vintage lunchboxes with TV show or celebrity images
7. Gold – old chains, earrings, broken bracelets
I’m on the lookout for tacky sweaters now. Did you know that you can search “tacky sweater” on e-Bay and a whole list of them will come up? It looks like you could sell one for at least $9.99. Not bad for something that you would love to get rid of!
Video games, I’m not so sure about. It must depend on the game. We’ve tried to sell some of our own games and sometimes the best offer was $1.00 per game. Sometimes it was $10.00.
Here are some other resources for finding potentially valuable items in your attic:
How to Sell Your Old Stuff
Once you find any collectible or valuable items in your home, selling them is the next step. You can reach a broad market by selling on the internet. While selling your item on eBay is a good way to consider, you should always first Google your item or do an internet search for your item to see if there are any collectors or specialized sites that might be easier and more profitable for selling your particular item.
One relatively new way to sell things on the internet is Facebook. Try searching “garage sale” and your city name on Facebook and you will likely be amazed at how many buy-sell-trade pages are operating in your area.
In my area the general procedure to sell something on Facebook is to first join the Facebook group for the online garage sale. Then, following the rules of the group, post the item for sale with a photo and description. The first person to comment that they are interested or want to buy must be given the opportunity to purchase. Once the sale is agreed, then a public place is set for meeting and completing the sale. If you break any of the rules of the group, then you are likely to be banned from the group
This is a good way to sell larger value items, but not necessarily items that will not sell for very much, especially since you will have to take the time and spend the gas money to drive somewhere and meet a prospective buyer.
Certainly you can also use the traditional ways to sell: letting others in your circles know you have a unique item for sale, advertising in local papers and newsletters, and placing an ad on craigslist.org.
A last resort would be a local pawn shop. While you can quickly sell most moderately valuable items to a pawn shop, expect to sell for much less than you would receive if you sold it yourself.
Finding treasures in your home and selling them has so many benefits: it clears out items from your living space, it puts an item into the hands of someone who really values it, and it gives you some money for investing or paying bills. Now that’s the Fat Dollar way!
Be sure and share with us any of your own found treasure stories!
Photo credit: freedigitalphotos.net & Stoonn
Now is a good time to review your regular bills. Make a list of the bills that are paid regularly, such as electric and gas bills, internet and TV, cell phone, trash service, home and auto insurance, etc.
Start with the monthly bills and select one. Review every line item on the bill. Do you understand everything that you are being charged for? Are there items on the bill that you don’t need or use anymore? Are you being charged to rent a piece of equipment that you don’t have anymore?
For internet, TV service, and other similar bills, if you have had the same service package for a year or more, call the customer service center and ask if there are any discounts or different packages that may be available.
I recently called my internet and cable TV service and found that we were eligible for a free upgrade to a much faster internet service. The customer service rep did the upgrade while I was still on the phone. While that call didn’t save any monthly money, I felt it was a very worthwhile call. I am thrilled with the faster internet speed. As well, she gave me another number to call because it appeared that we were also eligible for a lower-cost package. I’ll be calling that number soon!
Go through each of your regular bills one by one, slowly and in detail. If you find a charge that should not be there, make the call or send the email and get the process started to get it eliminated. While it may only be a few dollars of savings, keep in mind that a few dollars each month adds up. Saving $5.00 a month is a savings of $60.00 a year. What would you do if someone handed you $60.00 at the end of each year?
Credit card bills should be reviewed each and every month as they arrive. Did you sign up for a monthly “club” that you haven’t used in 3 months, but are still getting a $19.99/month charge? Did a company accidentally double bill you for something? Are there charges you don’t recognize? Even a $.25 charge that you didn’t authorize should be investigated. It may be a test charge by a card thief to see if the card is good as well as to see if they are able to make undetected charges on your account.
A periodic review of your regular bills helps to prevent money being completely wasted on services or items that you no longer use or need.
Even better, as soon as you discover and remove an unnecessary charge, set up an automatic monthly transfer of that amount to your savings account. You won’t miss the money and your savings account will start growing effortlessly.
Take a look at The Fat Dollar’s post on Automatic Investing for more ideas on increasing your regular savings.
Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net and patpitchaya.
We’re snowed in today, at least until we can get the driveway plowed and get the vehicles out. We had a beautiful, dangerous blizzard yesterday. Today and tomorrow we are under a wind-chill warning. It’s good to be inside and I am grateful to have electricity and an internet connection. (And a working boiler.)
While doing a bit of research, I came across several plans for inexpensive or low cost home heating. I haven’t tried any of these, but I’m considering it. You’ll have to make your own judgements about the safety and effectiveness of these. If anyone has tried these or something similar, it would be wonderful if you would share your experience in the comments.
1) Build a Solar Air Heating Collector from Soda-Pop Cans:
This is not only inexpensive – you use empty soda cans as well as old double paned windows and other found materials – but it looks much nicer than would be expected. It is somewhat labor intensive as you will need to drill or cut out the ends of each and every pop can.
2) Mother Earth News – Solar Heat Grabber
This one claims to cost $32.18 to build, but keep in mind that the article is older so prices are likely higher now. The unit fits next to a window and is not exactly attractive. The article has very good information about how to place the unit and what angles and placements are most effective.
3) Tea Light and Flowerpot Room Heater
No, this is not a joke. The author claims that this heater will heat a room for about $.15 a day.
This one seems like it could be a bit dangerous if you have small children, pets, or if you are a bit clumsy. It uses small candle flames to create a convection heater.
4) Electric Heater with a Battery and Ceramic Plate
This one takes some electric wiring knowledge, but that fact that it uses a 1.5v dry cell battery fascinated me. If you could find a rechargeable battery, this could be a good emergency or portable source of heat. I don’t know how safe it may be – best to check with the electrician in the family.
5) Solar Heat Panel
Another Mother Earth News article about building a solar panel – this one was designed to add heat to a garage or work shop.
The designer of this unit is an engineer that wanted to heat his outdoor workshop.
There you are. 5 Ideas for creating low cost home heating from the sun, a battery, or a candle. If you try any of them, please let us know how it worked and how much it cost.
I have one more idea for staying warm when then temperature outside is -15 degrees F. Wear thermal sock liners. They are worn underneath your regular socks.
I bought a pair from Amazon.com to give to my son this Christmas, but when they arrived, they were sparkly silver, thin, and knee-high. Seeing no way he would wear them, I kept them for myself. Wow! They are so effective that I am completely warm and comfortable which is a big change for me. Don’t tell my son … he may want them after all!
photo courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net and marin
Merry Christmas to all of our friends!
May you have a joyful, peaceful, and happy holiday.
From The Fat Dollar
One of my family’s yearly summer activities was camping. My dad was a big fan of tent camping – he believed that camping out in an RV, such as a travel trailer or camper, was not really camping. We visited nearly every state park in Indiana. Or did we end up visiting all of them? I don’t remember. I’ll have to ask my Dad! It was one of his personal goals to visit them all.
My aunt, on the other hand, was a firm believer in camping out in a camper. She had a truck and a fifth wheel camper and she traveled all over the US, and even ventured into Canada, for her camping excursions. On several lucky occasions, she invited me to go along with her and her daughter, Toni. My grandma went, too, on at least one trip. My cousin Toni, a couple of years older than me, was always thrilled to share the experience with me and we headed straight for the park’s stables to ride the horses as often as possible. We even had a song about riding horses that we made up that we sang as we walked the trails to the stables.
Those camping days are some of my best childhood memories. Unlike my Dad, I loved both tent camping and RV camping. Either way there was a crackling campfire and a table for playing cards and eating outdoor cooked meals. There was clear, clean air that was filled with the essence of lakes, grasses, leaves, flowers, and adventure. There were camping neighbors with guitars and stories. Best of all, there was the beautiful expanse of woods, creeks, lakes, hiking trails, bicycle paths, and fascinating bugs, birds, and animals.
We did have a raccoon that terrorized our camping site one year, but that is another story.
I encourage you to experience this on your own or with your family, especially if you have kids. If you already own camping gear or can borrow it, the cost is very low.
National Parks Free Admission Days
For more information visit the US National Park Service Site.
The savings will vary, since entrance fees will vary by park. For example, the entrance fee to the Grand Canyon National Park is $25.00 for a vehicle or $12.00 for an individual on foot, motorcycle, or bicycle. Yellowstone National Park has similar fees, although the motorcycle entrance fee is $20.00 instead of $12.00. In Michigan, the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore entrance fee is $10.00 per vehicle or $5.00 per adult on foot.
In addition, 268 of the 401 National Parks do not charge an admission fee, so you can visit these parks anytime for little or no cost.
Note that you will still pay any camping fees or other regular fees during the free admission days.
List of National Parks that Offer Free Admission Days
A list of all the National Parks that are eligible for the national parks free admission days as well as the regular park entrance fees can be seen at the National Parks Blog.
You can also see a list of participating parks for the free entrance days at the nps.gov site – Free Entrance Days – Participating Parks by State
Complete list of all National Parks
Here is a link to a complete list of all the National Parks. I was not able to find a list of all of the parks that do not have a regular entrance fee, but you should be able to find information on any national parks that interest you by starting there.
Free admission days are offered every year by published schedule. Just check the above links for the new schedule.
Activities at the National Parks
You can download a free guide to the National Parks.
Besides being an awesome photo opportunity, the parks offer hiking, boating, kayak tours, nature lessons, historic sites and tours, festivals, concerts, railroad train rides, apple picking, and of course, camping.
If you like the experience, an annual National Park pass is a bargain at $80.00. This pass is free for US military members and their dependent families.
US citizens age 62 or over can get a lifetime pass for $10.00. ($20.00 if ordered by mail.)
Whether free or at a reduced price, a visit to a state or national park is a rich experience that makes for lifetime memories.
The gorgeous photos are courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net and photographers wiangya and prozac1.
Learning to manage your money can be the difference between a life a struggle and a life of ease. Learning money management is not complicated.
Here are some secrets for a life of financial strength from Northwestern Mutual Chairman and CEO John Schlifske that he shared with a group of students from St. Louis University:
1. Don’t try to beat the stock market. Just make sound investments.
2. Do not borrow money to fund a lifestyle you can’t afford.
3. Learn to live below your means – in other words, live on less than you earn.
4. Always put aside an amount in savings.
5. Although it’s not as “sexy” to drive a car that might not be as nice as your neighbor’s, in the long run you will have a much better life if you can learn to live within your means.
John also says that being in a position of having to worry about being able to pay your debts makes you lose options in life, limits your freedom to easily change jobs, and even limits your ability to have the funds to take advantage of investment opportunities.
Thumbs up from The Fat Dollar! We’re here to help you learn to live well on the dollars you earn.
4 Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) bulbs
3 faucet aerators
2 low-flow shower heads
a thermometer card for the refrigerator and freezer
a hot water temperature card.
You can see my kit in the photo.
Thanks! I know I will use the CFL bulbs. I’ve already replaced our porch light with one of the bulbs in the kit.
Energy Savings with CFL Bulbs
Compared to an incandescent bulb, a CFL bulb will use up to 75% less electricity, last up to 6 times longer, and save about $6.00 a year in electric costs.*
I got 4 CFL bulbs, so that’s like getting $24.00 in the mail. Wait. That’s just one year’s worth of savings. That’s $24.00 for each year that the bulb replaces an incandescent bulb. Not bad.
Energy Savings with Low-Flow Showerheads and Aerators
Switching to one low-flow showerhead and one faucet aerator, can reduce hot water usage by 4,200 gallons per year per family. **
According to EnergyStar.gov, that’s a savings of about $145.00 per year if you have an electric water heater.
Energy Savings with Refrigerator Temperature Setting
The refrigerator and freezer thermometer cards are credit card sized and are designed to be placed in the refrigerator or freezer to take a temperature reading.
Good thing I got the thermometer card. I discovered that my refrigerator is running a couple of degrees too warm. I turned the refrigerator control from “4” to “5” and I’ll test it again. Hopefully it will be within the acceptable temperature range of 36 – 40 degrees F.
While letting the temperature in the refrigerator run too warm can invite food spoilage, letting the temperature run too cold can waste energy.
Mr Electricity says a refrigerator set too cold by 10 degrees can use up to 20-25% more energy.
Energy Savings with Hot Water Heater Temperature Setting
I haven’t used the hot water temperature card yet. It is designed to be placed in a cup of your hottest tap water. The card will tell you if the water heater temperature is set too high.
According to Energy.gov, lowering the temperature of the hot water heater by 10% creates a yearly energy savings of 3-5%.
Ideally, your hot water heater should be set between 110 degrees and 125 degrees F.
Maybe You Can Get Your Own Energy Kit – Here’s How
To receive the energy saving kit, I took an online energy assessment of my home. I received a checklist of ways to reduce energy costs as well as the kit. I live in a 110 (or is it 115?) year old farm house, so I appreciate energy savings.
If you are an AEP Indiana Michigan Power customer, you may also be eligible for the kit. Take a look www.indianamichiganpower.com/ go/checkup.
I found a few other utility companies offering an energy savings kit.
Some seem similar to the one I received:
Ohio – Ohio Edison, The Illuminating Company and Toledo Edison – www.ohioenergykit.com
Ontario, Canada – Union Gas – http://www.uniongas.com/residential/energy-conservation/energy-savings/energy-saving-kit
North Carolina – City of High Point Electric – http://www.highpointnc.gov/custsrv/depot.cfm
California, Los Angeles – Pace Energy – http://www.pacelaenergy.org/services/no-cost-energy-efficiency-kits/
Arizona, City of Flagstaff –http://flagstaff.az.gov/index.aspx?nid=1628
California, Oakland – East Bay Municipal – http://www.ebmud.com/for-customers/for-residential-customers/residential-conservation-rebates-and-services
This is just a small sampling of the utility companies offering some sort of energy savings kits.
Your Utility Company May Offer Rebates or Incentives for Energy Savings
In addition, many utility companies are offering rebates, coupons and incentives for purchasing or installing energy efficient appliances, such as refrigerators, stoves, air conditioning units, and furnaces.
If you are doing anything that might be considered an energy saving improvement, or purchasing any appliances, log onto your own utility company’s website and see what rebates and programs they have available.
Have you received any rebates or energy saving incentives from your utility company? How are you saving energy?
Even small changes, such as switching types of light bulbs, can add up to worthwhile savings, even hundreds of dollars a year. Taking a few minutes to make a small change, such as trading an incandescent bulb to a CFL bulb, lowering your hot water temperature, lowering the settings on your refrigeratro, can create savings that continue adding up for years.
Even better, it helps us all to become a little less dependent on energy and gives some relief to the demands that we make on the sometimes overburdened grid.
Now that’s the Fat Dollar way!
*Source – www.EnergyStar.gov – Light Bulbs
** Source – Minnesota CenterPoint Energy
Mr Electricity – http://michaelbluejay.com/electricity/
I learned a hard lesson about counterfeit coupons several years ago. I don’t recall the source of the coupon, but I had printed an internet coupon good for a free rental at Blockbuster Video. It did not even occur to me that the coupon might be a fraud.
My then teenaged son and his girlfriend were going to Blockbuster to pick out some movies to watch. I suddenly felt generous. “Here,” I said, “you can have my coupon. Get yourself a free movie rental.” They were thrilled.
They were not so thrilled when they tried to rent the movie with my coupon. The coupon was rejected. To make matters worse, the manager pulled them aside and accused them of creating the coupon themselves and trying to commit fraud at the store. He even mentioned that he should call the police.
They were shaken. I was mortified. I still cringe when I think of it.
Since then, I have been overly cautious about printing coupons from the internet. For the most part, I only print coupons from trusted sites like SmartSource.com , ValPak.com and CoolSavings.com, as well as directly from a product’s company website, such as BirdsEye.com or Purina.com.
How do you know if a coupon is counterfeit or legitimate?
There is a website, that if I had know about it back then, might have shown me that the coupon I had was a fraud. The site is the CouponInformation Center.com.
Try visiting the Coupon Information Center and looking up your coupon. If it is listed on the list at the Coupon Information Center www.couponinformationcenter.com then you can save yourself a dose of mortification and throw it away.
Or better yet, if you report the source of your counterfeit coupon to the Coupon Information Center (CIC) and your tip leads to the prosecution of the coupon counterfeiters, you just might be eligible for a $2500.00 reward. (Details on the CIC website.)
Imagine that. $2500.00.
Currently, the site is listing, among others, these counterfeit coupons:
- Campbell Soup, Pepperidge Farm $4.50 coupon
- PepsiCo, Quaker, $2.00 coupon
- PepsiCo, Starbucks, $2.00 coupon
- PepsiCo, Pepsi, $5.00 coupon
- Nestle, Digiorno, $6.75 coupon
- Nestle, Haagen-Daz, one Free
- and at least a few hundred more
Each counterfeit coupon listing has a Download PSA listing with a picture and description of the counterfeit coupon plus information on their (up to) $2500 reward system for helping to find and prosecute the person producing the coupon.
So if you get a coupon that seems to good to be true, first visit the Coupon Information Center site and see if they have it listed. If they do have it listed as a counterfeit, consider reporting the source of your coupon to the CIC. Then toss the coupon.
If the coupon is not listed, you still can’t be sure it is legitimate. To try to verify it, try visiting the product’s website to see if your coupon is being offered there. You might also try visiting some of the major coupon distributing sites to see if they are offering the coupon. You can even try googling it to see what you can unearth on it.
If you still are unable to verify the coupon, I would contact the product’s company customer service center and ask them if your coupon is legitimate.
I would not take any chances on a questionable coupon that you cannot verify. Tossing it could save you from some extreme embarrassment.
How about you? Have you ever come across a counterfeit coupon?
Related blog posts and articles:
Sooner or later it has to be dealt with: the laundry. The typical American household does almost 400 loads of laundry a year*, or an average of 7- 8 loads of laundry a week. Saving just a small amount of money on each load of laundry can add up to substantial savings over the years.
In my house, we do only half the average amount of laundry – usually 3-4 loads a week. I often substitute vinegar or baking soda for fabric softener. I have usually been pleased with myself for being so frugal and saving a bit of money on each load.
One day while I was in the laundry room and thinking about the actual cost of vinegar and baking soda, a vague uneasiness began to settle in. How could it be cheaper? It began to bother me. Did it really save money to use vinegar or baking soda instead of fabric softener?
I decided to find out.
I’ve posted the calculations and pricing details in an article on The Fat Dollar site – Making Homemade Fabric Softener with Baking Soda or Vinegar – Does it Really Save Money? . I’ll just give the results here.
It’s not what I wanted it to be, but more or less what that uneasy feeling told me to expect.
The results of the math showing the cost per rinse load:
Fabric Softener – Cost is $.04 * to $.08** per load
Vinegar – Cost is $.06 (using 1/2 cup) to $.11 (using 1 cup) per load
Baking Soda – Cost is $.12* to $.24** per load
*Sam’s Club Members Mark Brand
**Final Touch Ultra
Vinegar could be possibly less expensive than fabric softener, assuming that you use only 1/2 cup and compare it against the most expensive brand of fabric softener (Final Touch Ultra in my case). Even then, the savings are only $.02 per rinse load.
Using baking soda instead of fabric softener is a downright luxury if you use costs as an indicator. The baking soda is 3 to 6 times more costly than fabric softener. Who would have thought that it is splurging when you dump a half cup of baking soda in the rinse cycle?
Even with little or no monetary savings in the short term, there still are some very valid reasons to skip the fabric softener and use vinegar (or baking soda, if you really want to be a big spender).
- Vinegar brightens whites and helps to preserve colors
- Vinegar cuts through soap and fabric softener build-up and helps to rinse it away
- Vinegar helps to remove odors from clothing
- Vinegar is a natural product without dyes or perfumes
- Vinegar can help to remove soap buildup in the washing machine and hoses
- Baking soda helps to eliminate odors
- Baking soda naturally softens water
- Baking soda has no dyes or perfumes
While there really is little or no cost savings by using vinegar or baking soda in the rinse cycle, I will still use these in the laundry. I like the freedom from chemicals and perfumes on my clothing.
Since I often make my own laundry soap, vinegar is a good complement to this. Vinegar in the rinse cycle helps to get all the soap rinsed out of the clothing.
Lastly, I think I will probably always use baking soda and vinegar in the laundry because I like using natural products. It just feels so right.
How about you? Do you prefer fabric softener or vinegar in the rinse cycle?
*According to The California Energy Commission, Consumer Energy Center