Written by Tony Marrone
I posted recently over at Wise Bread about my exorbitant dry cleaning weekly bill. If anyone can relate to spending too much money to clean clothes you don’t even really like to wear, it must be law students. Whether you’re schlepping back-and-forth to your externship with a judge, or wearing a suit to try to impress the partners at the firm you’re interviewing with, dry cleaning can put a serious cramp in your budget.
I’ve gone through many dry cleaners, and the retirement of my most recent dry cleaner (real old-fashioned Italian guy who was in the business since his father opened up shop in 1933) prompted me to take a serious look at the need for dry cleaning.
Most personal finance blogs do not go in-depth on how dry cleaning can hurt you financially, but I have found that I sometimes spend in excess of $500 a month on dry cleaning. With that in mind, I’ve developed a two-step plan to relieve my dry cleaning woes:
1. Dry Cleaning At-Home Kits
Dryel is the first product that popped into my head. I’ve seen their commercials, and it seems Dryel has the market cornered on at-home dry cleaning kits. These seem straightforward, and I have it on good advice that the Dryel product is much more environmentally-friendly then the stuff used by most dry cleaners. Also, even when you factor in the cost of running the dryer a couple extra cycles a week, this type of product should save me tons of money on dry cleaning sweaters, vests and polo shirts.
2. Professional Grade Steamer
Rowenta makes the best irons, so they must make the best commercial steamers as well. The prices might seem a little steep, but I think this product will pay for itself in less than a month. My friend has a steamer that he uses for suits and dress shirts, and he swears to me that he doesn’t even use an iron. I already have a pants press (recycled from my parent’s garbage) so the steamer, coupled with the Dryel kit should complete my trifecta of at-home dry cleaning products.
I’m interested to hear what you have to say. Who among us spends way too much on dry cleaning, and are you willing to give up the cleaner for a do-it-yourself solution? What are some other products/services that law students pay way too much for?
Written by Brett McKay
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.”
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?
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!
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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Declutter. Take a weekend to go through your house and declutter. Throw out stuff you don’t use. Less clutter, less to clean.
- 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.
- 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.