i The Frugal Law Student | 2007 | November

Law School
Personal Finance

Welcome Tulsa World Readers!

Written by Brett McKay


Today The Frugal Law Student was featured in this morning’s edition of the Tulsa World. You can see the article here. If this is your first time at the Frugal Law Student, then welcome! Please check out the archives and most popular articles for even more money saving tips. If you like what you see, make sure to sign up for email updates or subscribe to my RSS feed.

My regular readers may have noticed I haven’t posted in about a week. I’ve been cranking away at my law review article hard this past week so I could have it finished before Thanksgiving Break. After several late nights, gallons of Diet Mountain Dew, and lots of help from my wife I was able to finish it last night. What a relief. I’ll be focusing more on studying for finals from here on out, but I’ll be back on a regular posting schedule. Stay tuned!

Photo by  MIKE SIMONS / Tulsa World

The Garage Sale Without a Garage: Declutter Your Life & Make Money on eBay

Written by Brett McKay

Garage Sale

One of the things my wife and I do to make some extra money is selling our old stuff on eBay. How do we find stuff to sell? Every 6 months or so, my wife and I take a day to purge ourselves of stuff we no longer use. While most of the stuff is crap and will go to the garbage, every once in a while we will find some great items that can fetch a pretty penny on eBay. Here’s our general method of how we do do our eBay “purge and profit.”

The Purge

Set aside a day for the purge. A thorough purging will take a good part of the day. Set aside weekend where you can devote your self completely to decluttering your house.

Create your declutter attack plan. Plan the order of the rooms you want to declutter. Start off with some easy rooms to get you in the “declutter zone.” If the room has closets, start of with those before you move the rest of the room. If the room has cabinets, purge those first.

Create a “trash” bag an”eBay” bag, and “donate” bag. Have separate bags or boxes for garbage and eBay and sort as you go. Some items, like clothing, are better to donate than sell on eBay simply because they don’t do that well on eBay. Make sure to have bags for donations as well.

Ask the “one year question.” If you’re not sure whether you should get rid of something, ask yourself “Have I used this item in the last year?” If you haven’t it goes; if you have, keep it.

Finish a room before going on the next one. Stay focused on one room at a time. If you try to purge more than one room at a time, you’ll overwhelm yourself and end up quiting before the job is done.

Chunk it or donate it. Take the trash bag and put out with the garbage. Drop the donate bags to Goodwill. Ahhh… doesn’t that feel good?

The Profit

Now it’s time to sell your stuff on eBay. Here’s what has helped my wife and I get maximum profits on our eBay sales.

Research what similar items have sold for. Find out what the eBay market is valuing your item at. If you set too high a price, you won’t get any bids. Just get on eBay’s advanced search to see what items like yours have sold for and how much they are auctioning for now. Take into account the item’s condition when researching as well. If it has some dings and flaws, you should look to start the bid out lower than other items.

Set your starting bid low. Low starting bids attract more bidders. Of course you should base your bids on the demand for the item. If it’s a high demand product, starting low shouldn’t hurt you because more people will be competing for it. If your product is in low demand and you think you won’t get many bids, set the starting price closer to what you actually want to get for the item. This is why researching is so important.

Be descriptive in your description. The more detail you put in your item description the more likely it will sell. Tell how old the item is, how often it has been used, and any flaws it might have. Even if your item has a few dings in it, people will buy IF you’re upfront about it in the description. It shows the buyer you’re an honest eBayer and in the eBay game your reputation is your most important commodity.

Edit your description. Make sure to run a spell check and grammar check on your eBay listing. It just makes you look more legit and boosts that all important eBay reputation.

Create a stellar title. The first thing people will see when searching for eBay items is the title. The key for a good title is description. Try to tell everything you can about the item in the space eBay give your for the title. List things like brand, color, condition, designers, and size. If it’s a book or CD, include the artist. That way if someone searches for the author, but not the title of your book, your item will still come up. Don’t use all caps or punctuations. That just annoys people and shows you have no idea what you’re doing.

Include a picture of the item. Don’t just include one, include several from different angles. Make sure you show any flaws or dings the item might have. Again, if the flaw is minor, it shouldn’t hurt you. The picture of the flaw only shows you’re an honest seller.

Run a 10 day listing. If you start the bid on Thursday and run a 10 day bid, your bid will end on the Sunday of the following week. That means your item will be up for two weekends. More people surf and make purchases on eBay on the weekends, so having exposure on two weekends will definitely help increase the bids.

Be prompt in answering questions. If you get a question from a bidder, answer it quickly. It shows you’re serious about selling your item and only increases your reputation. Plus, it’s just plain courteous.

Be upfront with shipping and handling. Make it clear who’s paying for shipping and handling. One of the biggest scams people run on eBay is selling an item for super cheap, but then charging $15 for shipping. You’ll encourage bids if you’re clear about how much shipping will be.

Don’t use eBay add-ons . I haven’t found these to be very helpful. If you follow these tips, you shouldn’t have to use them.

Ship fast. As soon as the auction is over, head down to the post office and send the package off. Buyers will get to vote on you and how you handle shipping will be taken into consideration. Ship fast to earn a high score!

What are your tips for the eBay “purge and profit?” Drop a line in the comment box!

Getting Clean Done: Effortless House Cleaning For Busy People

Written by Brett McKay


One of my reoccurring goals is to do a better job keeping our living area clean. But because my wife and I are so busy, house cleaning usually gets brushed to the side. Before we know it, the place is a pig pen. Keeping a clean working/living area helps keep stress down and productivity up. Here’s some tricks to help you maintain a clean house with little effort.

  1. Use a timer. You would be amazed how much you can get clean in five minutes. Make it a game. Pick a room, set the timer for 10 minutes, and try to finish cleaning it within the time period. Because you’ll probably running around more than usual, you might actually get a workout from doing this!
  2. Break up house cleaning throughout the week. Instead of doing all your cleaning on the same day, make the task less daunting by breaking it up throughout the week. Make one day bathroom day, another kitchen day, and another bedroom day.
  3. Nightly pickup. Set aside 15 minutes each night to go through the house and pick things up. Once you have everything together, start putting stuff away where it belongs.
  4. Clean as you go. Make cleaning a part of your daily routine so when big cleaning days come up they’re not as hard. For example, after getting ready in the morning take a minute to wipe down the bathroom counter, sinks, and shower. That two minute investment can save you 30 minutes on cleaning day.
  5. Put items where they belong. Develop a habit of putting stuff where it belongs instead of dropping it off in random places. Not only will this help maintain a clean home, it will save you time when you’re trying to find things. No more frantically searching for your car keys when you’re late.
  6. Declutter. Take a weekend to go through your house and declutter. Throw out stuff you don’t use. Less clutter, less to clean.
  7. Clean in between TV commercials. If you watch TV to wind down at night, whenever a commercial comes on, do some simple cleaning. For example, wipe down the kitchen, put things away, or even vacuum. Instead of watching commercials, you can get stuff done, and enjoy your favorite show.
  8. Establish a keep it clean plan. Real Simple has a page with a great plan that shows you how to clean each room in your home in less than 10 minutes. My wife and I are working on establishing this habit. We’re having a hard time, but we’ve noticed that we save lots of time whenever we keep to the plan.

Why Tip?

Written by Mrs. FLS

Yesterday Brett posted a guide to tipping. To some it may have appeared that Brett and I like to throw our money around and hand out big tips to every Tom, Dick, and Harry. But it is important to note that most of the services listed in that post are services that, because we are frugal, we would never use. We don’t use a sky cap, we wait in line for the ticket counter; we don’t purchase tours, get massages, buy car washes, or use valet parking either. The point is, however, that if you did use those services, then you should tip. And really, if you are well off enough to afford those services, then you could most certainly afford to cough up a few bucks extra for the tip.

Some of the comments expressed negativity towards the whole idea of tipping in general. Several posters mentioned that they did not think it was necessary to pay above and beyond the actual cost of the service. For example CrazyPumpkin said: “My boss doesn’t ‘tip’ me when I finish a project ahead of time or do a task particularly well. He says thank you and I get to keep my job. He expects these things of me, it’s part of my job description.”

So I would like to discuss the point of tipping.

The difference between a regular job and the jobs that require tips is that they are service jobs, and they are called service jobs because they are serving you. They personally and intimately effect you. I agree that you do not need to always tip people like tow truck drivers or baristas, and you do not have to tip people for doing their job per se. But you might think about tipping people for the following reasons:

1) If the person went above and beyond regular service. It is just a way of showing gratitude for a job well done and going the extra mile. While many people work in professions that don’t receive tips per se, companies often offer bonuses after a project is completed successfully. And what is a bonus if not just a very large tip? When bonuses are offered, people do not generally say “There is no need to give me a bonus. I was just doing my job.”

2) To show your gratitude. Another word for tip is “gratuity.” Many people in service jobs are overworked, underpaid, and unthanked. At your job when you do something right, your supervisor says “thank you,” and “job well done!” Who says thank you to the trashmen? Many service jobs are jobs we don’t want to do, and we are grateful people are there day in and day out doing them for us. Our trash gets taken away, our mail gets delivered, our food is served to us. Their pay often does not match their effort. Who thinks that teachers’ pay is commensurate with the work they put in? Tipping is a way to say “thank you” to those who rarely hear it.

3) Tipping ensures great service. This is especially true of people who perform service for you regularly. If you tip a barista at a coffee shop you frequent, or a waiter at your favorite restaurant, they will give you even better service next time. For example, I used to work at a pizza place and when an order came in, if the pizza delivery guy recognized the name, and remembered they were a big tipper, they would bust their butt to get the order out. They would even take the tipper the order BEFORE orders that had come in earlier. If an order came up for a name they recognized as a bad tipper, they would deliver that order later. Similarly, when I worked at Jamba Juice, this one customer would tip us very heavily every time she came in. So during her visits we were practically falling over ourselves to get her order out. We would start making it even before she paid. And we would always throw in extra goodies. So in things you do regularly, tipping is certainly not essential, but can guarantee you better service.

In summation: Tipping is not always necessary. You certainly shouldn’t be throwing your money around. But it can be appropriate in some circumstances. If someone serves you in a way that makes a difference in your day, a few bucks is a nice way to show you are thankful.

The Frugal Law Student Month In Review- October 2007

Written by Brett McKay

October was a super busy month for me. With law review and job interviews thrown on top of my already busy law school schedule, I didn’t have much time for blogging. However, I did manage to write some posts that brought in a lot of traffic.

The Frugal Law Student saw a record number of visitors this month- 23,408 visits. That’s up from 8,466 in September. Why the huge increase? There are several reasons. First, many of you submitted some of my posts to Stumbleupon and Digg which brought in lots of traffic. Second, some of my posts went semi-viral and were linked on different sites thanks to some big time bloggers, like JD from Get Rich Slowly, linking to me. Finally, one of my posts was included in the Principle Financial Group’s monthly client newsletter. Those three things combined brought the traffic. So, thanks to all of you who Dugg or Stumbled my posts or linked to my articles! I really appreciate it.

RSS subscriptions also rose. As of this writing, there are 614 RSS subscribers. Thanks to all my loyal readers who subscribe. Seriously, you all keep me motivated to come up with new content each and everyday.

Popular Posts

  1. Hack Your Pocket Moleskine Into A Wallet. This was this month’s most popular post. It got Stumbled a ton and was included on several sites.
  2. 180 Money Saving Tips to Turn Your Life Around 180 Degrees.  I wrote this post back in May and its still one of my more popular ones. 180 Money Saving Tips was picked up by Principal Financial in their monthly e-newsletter to clients.
  3. Do It Yourself Pottery Barn Halloween Countdown Calendar.  My sister Shannon wrote this great how-to guide. Several other craft related blogs picked it up. JD from Get Rich Slowly was kind enough to include it in his weekly link round up at the beginning of the month.
  4. 13 Ways To Kill a Cold Without Killing Your Budget. Cold season is upon us which probably made this post so popular this month.
  5. 12 Meals That Are Easy, Cheap, And Healthy. This was a guest post written by FLS reader Erica. Lots of great ideas for quick frugal meals.

Calling All Guest Bloggers

With law school exams just a month a way, my focus will be turning more to studying. If you’re interested in writing a guest post for The Frugal Law Student, contact me. You can write about anything dealing with law school, personal finance, frugality, or productivity. If you’re a new blogger, guest blogging is a great way to get exposure to new readers.


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