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Saving 100% Down for A Home: Part 4

A New Beginning

After three months of unemployment (which felt more like three years!), Jesse was offered a contract position at a large law firm in Kansas City. It was by no means an ideal job: the work was monotonous, the commute was long and there was no guarantee how long the position would last. But it was a job nonetheless, and we were very, very grateful and relieved.

As soon as his first paycheck came, we immediately began saving again — this time with the goal of having a six-month Emergency Fund in place. We were highly motivated after Jesse’s unexpected job loss to get this financial goal done as soon as we could!

Since we knew Jesse’s contract position was short-term (likely two years or less), we began praying about what God wanted us to do long-term. Both of us had been hoping since Jesse graduated from law school, that we could eventually move back to where we grew up and both of our families lived. It was hard to be a number of hours away — especially now that we had two young children.

The more we prayed about moving back, the more we felt that’s what we were supposed to do. How it would work out, we had no idea.

We continued scrimping and saving and working hard. By combining the extras we could squeeze out of Jesse’s budget and the increasing side income from MoneySavingMom.com, we were able to fully fund our Emergency Fund in March of 2008.

Reaching this financial goal in a fairly short amount of time gave us serious momentum, and after running a lot of numbers, we felt there was a good possibility we could actually save up enough to pay cash for a modest starter home in three to five years. We decided to go for it full-force!

Instead of focusing on this audacious goal though, we broke it down into baby-steps and set specific savings goals for each month. Jesse, being the numbers “nerd” he is, created a detailed spreadsheet outlining where we were and where we needed to go. We’d updated this spreadsheet every month and it was so encouraging to see our progress.

In the Summer of 2008, an attorney who owned his own law firm back in our hometown, offered Jesse the opportunity to office-share with him. Jesse had always wanted to start his own law firm, but we’d anticipated it would be a long time down the road, if ever.

Now that this door opened up though, we started seriously considering it, running numbers and praying about it. We knew Jesse’s contract job would likely be ending in the not-too-distant future and the more we prayed about it, opening our own law firm seemed like a very viable option for us.

We had enough in savings to live on for almost a year now, MoneySavingMom.com was bringing in a good income, and by office-sharing, Jesse could set up and run his law firm very inexpensively. Plus we were overjoyed at the thought of moving back home where most of our extended families and many lifelong friends lived.

At the same time though, it was a big jump. What if the law firm completely flopped? What if this turned out to be a big setback to us financially? What if we had to give up our big goal of paying cash for a house because we were just trying to put food on the table?

There were many, many unknowns, but we both felt a peace about moving forward. So we packed up our house (while I was in the middle of morning sickness with our third child. Morning sickness and moving seem to coincide frequently around here!), found a rental back home, moved back and Jesse opened his firm the beginning of October 2008.

We could have never guessed the miraculous surprise which would be right around the corner, allowing us to gain more financial traction in the next year than we could have ever imagined.

Super Savings Saturday: Dillon’s, Aldi and the health food store

I was really excited about the grocery deals we were able to get this week:

Deals from the health food store: Free Happy Baby Melts (used free coupon), organic kefir marked down to $0.99, a big bag of green beans marked down to $0.99, and 2 dozen organic eggs for free (they were marked down to $0.99 and I had coupons for $2 off any 2 Organic Valley products. Total spent: $2.58

Deals from Dillon’s: Yoplait yogurt for $0.09 each after coupon, peanut butter for $1, Let’s Grow product for free (used free product coupon), frozen veggies for $0.50 per box, Softsoap for free after coupon, and yes, I actually paid $1 for toothpaste. (Somehow, I managed to completely overlook the fact that we were almost out. I usually never pay for toothpaste, but I didn’t have another choice, so I just suck it up and pay. But I’m going to be on a keen lookout for a great toothpaste deal so I don’t have to pay for it again!) Total spent: $5.15

Deals at Aldi: Bread, English Muffins, carrots for $0.45, oranges for $1.99, tomatoes for $1.49, 3 blocks of cheese, 6 packages of strawberries for $0.99 each, chips, avocados, and more carrots. Total spent: $23.75

My husband also bought two gallons of milk (not pictured) so altogether, we spent around $38 on groceries this week.

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Did you snag any great deals or bargains this week or save money in other ways? If so, be sure to post about them on your blog and leave your link below. Please remember that this weekly round-up is to share deals you personally got and/or money you were able to save this week. In order to keep this weekly round-up focused on helping and inspiring others in their efforts to save money, links which have little-to-no content other than promoting affiliate links, etc. will be deleted. Also, to make it easy for everyone to navigate quickly through the links, your link must link directly to your Super Savings Saturday post.

Clear Out the Clutter Challenge: Do Something With Your Clutter!

Clear Out the Clutter Assignment #5: Get Rid of Your Clutter!

Now that you’ve purged your closets, drawers, shelves and home of unnecessary, unloved and unused things, it’s time to do something with your clutter. Don’t just pile it up somewhere or stuff it into boxes, get rid of it!

Here are some ideas for what to do with your unwanted clutter:

1. Donate

If you don’t want to hassle with selling stuff and you itemize your taxes, than donating your clutter to charity is a great option. Not only are you helping others out, but you can might be able to get a tax break for doing so.

2. Recycle

Instead of just dumping things in the garbage, consider recycling it. If RecycleBank operates in your area, you can earn free coupons and more for your recycling efforts.

3. Sell

There are a multitude of opportunities to sell your unwanted clutter including: eBay, Craigslist, garage sales, consignment sales, Cash4Books, and more.

4. Trade

Did you know you could trade in old electronics and gadgets for cash or store gift cards? Erin from CouponCravings recently wrote an extensive piece on many of the programs available.

What are you doing with your clutter? What other ideas do you have for getting rid of your clutter or making money from your clutter? Tell us in the comments.

10 Tips for Having a Successful Garage Sale

10 Secrets to Having a Successful Garage Sale

For those of you who follow me on Facebook and Twitter, you know our garage sale last week was a smashing success. In fact, all together, our family (along with my siblings and parents) made over $1000 in the 2 1/2 days we ran the sale. Considering that our highest-ticket items were $20 and the majority of our stuff was priced at $0.25 to $2, that’s a lot of stuff sold!

I’ve had a number of successful garage sales over the years and here are my top 10 tips for having a successful sale:

1. Collect Clutter Year-Round

I mentioned recently that I have an ongoing Garage Sale Stash. When I come upon something we no longer need or use and I don’t know anyone to pass it onto, I stick it in a box under the stairs. Once a box fills up, I start another. And another. Without much effort at all, by the time it’s the month of our annual garage sale, I usually have at least 8-10 boxes of stuff collected.

2. Have a Plan

A successful garage sale does not happen without organization. At least a week before the sale I go through my home from top to bottom and clear out clutter. At least 2-3 days before the sale, I take an afternoon to price everything and organize it. And then the day before the sale, I devote a few hours to final organization, posting an ad on Craigslist, getting the cash and signs together and so forth.

Do not wait until the last minute to pull off a garage sale. Either it will flop or you’ll run yourself ragged–or both. If you’re in a new location or you’re new to hosting a garage sale, I’d suggest that you start getting organized at least 3-4 weeks in advance.

Getting Organized for a Garage Sale

::How are you going to display items? Do you need to borrow or make a clothes-rack?

::Do you have enough table space? If not, check and see if you can borrow tables from friends or put together some makeshift tables out of plywood and boxes.

::What signs will you be using and how many do you need? Where will you be displaying the signs to best direct traffic to your home? Drive the routes people will be coming and decide on these locations so you’re not scrambling the morning of the sale.

::Who is going to put the signs out the morning of the sale? Designate someone for this ahead of time and let them know specifically where to place the signs.

::How much cash should you have on hand and how will you keep it in a safe location?

::Do you need to purchase a license for running a garage sale in your area?

::Do you have enough help?

3. Team Up

One of my best “secrets” for success when it comes to garage sales is that I never do them on my own. I always find friends or family to team up with. Not only does this arrangement mean you have more stuff to sell and more variety in sizes and types of things offered, it also means you have more help. Divvying up the responsibilities between 3 or 4 people makes a garage sale much more manageable. Plus, it just makes it more fun when you’re doing it with friends and family!

4. Location, Location, Location!

If you want to have a garage sale that flops, pick a location which is off-the-beaten-path and hard to get to. That’s a surefire way to lose a lot of business.

Don’t live near a busy intersection? Well, look for alternative locations like a friend or relative’s home.

This is probably the key to our garage sale success. We live right between two very heavily-trafficked streets. We put up some good signage and the crowds descend!

5. Timing is Everything (well, just about!)

I don’t advise planning a sale in the freezing cold Winter or the blazing hot Summer. Choose a time of the year when the weather will be very pleasant and try to check the weather forecast ahead of time to make sure rain is not expected when you’re planning your sale.

In addition, find out what days of the week are best for yard sales to run in your area. When we lived in Kansas City, I found people usually only held sales on Friday and Saturday. However, where we live now, Thursdays are a big yard sale day and seem to garner the most traffic.

6. Clearly Mark Your Prices

It’s easy to want to just stick a big sign on a table saying that everything on that table is a quarter, but, in the long-run, it is much more efficient to go ahead and put price stickers on everything. Instead of having to make up prices on the spot, people will know exactly how much something is. In addition, some people are too shy to ask the price of an item, so you’ll lose a sale if an item isn’t marked.

I’ve found it’s easiest to invest the few dollars it costs to buy pre-priced stickers for most of my items as this makes pricing a snap. I try to have variety in pricing with plenty of $0.25 or less items. I’ve found that when people pick up one thing to buy, they are more likely to pick up other things as well, so have lots of $0.25 items and it might help you sell some of your larger-ticketed items, too!

Since we pretty much always have multiple families involved when we run a garage sale, we just mark initials on all our price tags and then keep a tally sheet in a notebook as things sell. It adds a bit more time when customers are checking out, so it’s good to have at least two people working the money table–one to keep track of the tally sheet and one handle the money and making change.

7. Price Things to Sell

When I go to a garage sale, I expect to pay yard sale prices. Unless something is brand-new with the tags on, I am not going to pay more than a few quarters for it, if that. When I am pricing my own items to sell, I always try to price things at what I feel would be a good bargain if I were buying the item at someone else’s garage sale.

I’d rather price something on the low end and have someone actually buy my item, than to have 25 people pick up the item and put it back down on the table because it is too expensive.

8. Advertise well

The marketing of your sale is usually the number-one factor in how well your sale does. You can have great items, great prices and a great location, but if you don’t tell people how to get there, they won’t find it on their own. So put some time and effort into making a number of quality, clearly-readable signs which you put in conspicuous places to easily lead to your home. The brighter, bolder and bigger the sign, the better.

I have also found Craigslist to be the most-effective marketing tool for advertising a garage sale. And did I mention it’s free to advertise on Craigslist? I usually advertise the day before the sale and then re-post a revised ad each day of the sale. The more details you can put in your ad, the better. Tell specific items, brands and sizes.

When people search for items on Craigslist, if they are looking for what you’re selling–even if they aren’t looking at garage sales–your item will pull up in searches for them. So the more descriptive you can be in the listing and title, the better. Of course, don’t write a book; just focus on your hottest sellers. And please use proper grammar and spelling, too. Sometimes, it’s the little things that make a big difference!

9. Mark Things Down on the Last Day

Things are usually pretty picked over by the last day of the sale. That’s the perfect opportunity to get creative and hand out rock-bottom bargains! We found that running “Fill a Bag for a Buck” is extremely effective. Last week, we got rid of around 25 bags full of stuff in a few hours by doing this.

We’ve also done it where everything was half-price the last day. Or, if we have quite a bit of stuff left and we’re feeling ready to close up shop, we’ll just say that everything is free the last hour.

10. Don’t forget the cookies and lemonade!

What better way to teach your children entrepreneurial skills and let them earn a little money in the process than to have them set up their own little cookie and lemonade stands at the sale? Or, if it’s cold outside, try selling hot chocolate, coffee, and fresh cinnamon rolls. One yard sale, we even set up a pancake griddle and sold pancakes hot
off the griddle on Saturday morning.

Baked goods–like homemade cookies and bars–sell extremely well at our garage sales. In fact, my younger siblings made around $100 from selling cookies at our garage sale last week!

We also let Kathrynne (5) run her own little toy table last week. Everything was a penny and she had a great time interacting with customers and taking money. Best of all, it was a great learning experience for her about the value of money and how to conduct yourself in a professional manner with adults and others whom you don’t know.

Those are just a few things which I’ve found to be a great help in hosting a successful yard sale. What are your best tips for having a great yard sale? I’d love to hear!

photo credits: Louisa_catlover; Chiot’s Run


An update on The Company Store offer

If you were one of the thousands of people who got in the great deal from The Company Store yesterday, I just wanted to post a quick update and encourage everyone to double-check how much were charged. Unfortunately, it appears a number of folks were over-charged and have had to call in to get the extra charges taken off their account.

I’m so sorry about this and hope you are able to get any issues resolved in a quick and easy manner.

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