How to Write an eBay Ad That Sells

ebay adOne of the best ways to make a little extra cash each month is to use the internet to sell items that you’re no longer using. Selling items at a more traditional yard sale, or even on Craigslist, often means you have to accept low prices in order to sell your things. On auction sites like eBay, however, buyers look for specific brands and manufacturers, so they often are willing to pay higher prices.

Selling on eBay, though, can be difficult if you don’t include the right information. Make sure your ad always has the following elements:

1. Photos

An eBay as with no photos will never sell. Always include photos of your item, taken in good light on a neutral background. Have at least one shot of the whole item and at least one of a close-up or different angle.

If you item is made by a well-known manufacturer or is a popular brand, include a photo of the maker’s mark, logo, or brand name so potential buyers know it’s genuine.

If your item has any flaws or damage, be sure to include images of these areas. Flaws or damage won’t necessarily prevent you from selling, but if a customer buys an item and then discovers it is damaged, they will leave negative feedback and your seller rating will go down.

2. A Descriptive Title

Many people search eBay by keywords, so make sure you have all potential terms in your title. For example, don’t just write, table,❠include, coffee table/side table/ end table.❠This is also a place where you should include size information (women’s petite blazer/jacket size 8/Mâ) and brand or manufacturer (Gorham Chantilly silver teaspoonâ). Use all the available characters for the title.

3. Measurements

Because people are buying sight-unseen, measurements give them greater confidence in their purchase. Include these in the description and you instantly look like a more professional seller.

Clothing sizes vary, so for these items, lay them flat and measure their width at shoulder, chest, waist, and hips. Include sleeve, inseam, and torso length where applicable. For shoes, measure the length, width at the ball, and heel height.

For furniture, include width, depth, and height so buyers know whether the piece will fit in their home.

Even collectibles should have measurements included to help people identify the item. You wouldn’t want to order a snowglobe that you thought would fit in your hand only to discover it’s the size of a beach ball! You customers don’t want to either, so give them as much information as possible.

4. Offer Free Shipping

People always feel like they’re getting a good deal when they don’t have to pay extra for shipping, so offering free shipping gives them more incentive to buy. This doesn’t mean your profit has to take a hit! Figure out the lowers price you’d be willing to accept, add the cost of shipping (picking a flat rate shipping method makes this easy to calculate) and list that as your starting price.

You can also list separate costs for expedited and international shipping and still have the free shipping❠label show up on your listing, so you lose nothing by offering it.

The key to a good eBay as is to share as much information as possible so your potential customers feel they can bid with confidence on a great deal.

What success have you had selling items online? What tricks have you learned from them? Let us know!

photo by bobjudge

10 Tips for Home Made Meals and a Fatter Wallet

cooking for lessEating out at restaurants is one of the leading culprits of overspending in this food-centric culture. It’s easy to justify the steep prices of going out to eat because it’s social, convenient, and exciting to try new flavors and local restaurants. Throughout my endeavors to reduce this expensive habit, I’ve identified 10 tips to make eating-in delicious, manageable, on budget and entertaining.

1. Cook in Pairs:

Dining at home can be just as social as going to a restaurant when you cook with a friend or partner. Between the washing, chopping and cooking, there are plenty of tasks to keep two or three people busy and working together. The downtime of waiting for the meal to cook can be spent at the table just like at a restaurant. Plus, the actual consumption of the meal is more rewarding because it was created together. There is no pressure to leave the table once the meal is finished, and there’s no tip necessary.

2. Double the Recipe:

Preparing meals for one or two individuals can be expensive and exhausting. A fast $5 burrito is a better deal than buying $15 worth of ingredients to make one burrito at home. In order to make eating at home a frugal practice, you must make extra servings to use up the remaining ingredients. Doubling or tripling your recipe will reduce wasted food and overall time spent in the kitchen. When you have a busy schedule, it’s tough to make time to cook, yet simple to swing by a local restaurant. Spending two of the five weeknights cooking large meals is much more manageable than cooking one or two servings every night.

3. Choose Recipes That Reheat Well:

When making meals in bulk, it’s important to select dishes that taste just as delicious reheated. Otherwise, it won’t seem appetizing and an inexpensive restaurant will win the flavor debate. Some easy meals that reheat well are: stuffed peppers, casserole, spaghetti, enchiladas, meatloaf, stir fry, chili, lentils or stew. If salads are your preference, bake multiple chicken breasts at once, chop extra veggies and wash all the lettuce. Tossing a salad together will be much quicker and just as tasty on day two or three.

4. Eat All the Leftovers:

It’s challenging for me to get excited about leftovers, especially when eating the same meals back-to-back. If I stick to meals that reheat well, I can rotate my leftovers for taste bud confusion. Packing leftovers for lunch is a huge money saver and an opportunity to mix meals up. Try filling plastic containers when you’re finished cooking so lunches are packed and easy to grab. If you can’t see yourself getting to the remaining food before it spoils, freeze it for next week. Lastly, placement in the refrigerator is essential to consuming all of the leftovers. If the pot pie is covered in foil on the bottom rack of the refrigerator, it may get forgotten like the bag of brown lettuce in the vegetable drawer. Keeping things visible, freezing meals, packing lunches and rotating leftovers will assure nothing goes to waste.

5. Plan the Menu Before Shopping:

It’s imperative to make a meal plan and itemize the grocery list before leaving home. Get inspired by what you already have and create meals that only require a couple fresh items. I like to try out new recipes, so it’s helpful to double-check my cupboards before accidentally buying yet another bottle of white wine vinegar. Having a list helps me stay on track at the grocery store, avoiding extra snacks and gathering everything necessary for the planned meals.

6. Use Coupons:

Using coupons is a great money saving strategy for some. I’m either too busy or too lazy to clip the coupons and remember to bring them with me to the store. Many grocery stores have coupon booklets at the front which are great to flip through while shopping. It’s a bonus to get a few of my list items for an extra discount.

7. Where to Shop:

I get accustomed to my local stores, but they aren’t always the best bargains. Depending on my grocery list, I adjust where I shop. QFC is a great starting point because it often has discounts on meat, which tends to be the most expensive portion of meals. After I stock up on the two-for-one deals and specialty items, I drive over to Trader Joe’s for produce, flavorful sauces and extras. Costco is a great option for bulk items, and Grocery Outlet is a bargain for canned goods. Wherever I shop, I make sure to have a free membership for those valued customer discounts.

8. When to Shop:

I prefer to shop ever week or two, usually in the evening after work. Some stores like Fred Meyer have reduced prices on rotisserie chickens after 8 pm. It’s a risk because they may have sold out, but the remaining chickens are only $3.49. Take advantage of these simple discounts. Sunday and Monday nights are generally very crowded, so try to avoid those rushes. Most importantly, don’t shop hungry! It’s too easy to let your stomach make foolish decisions.

9. Use Everything:

The real trick to saving money on food is to not let anything go to waste. In addition to the tips above, a great way to decrease wasted food is to save the less favorable items for a morning smoothie. Broccoli stems, greens that have lost their crisp, brown bananas or anything else you might otherwise toss can blend into a tasty and healthy breakfast smoothie. The really slimy spinach or moldy berries can go into the compost for your fertilizer next season.

10. Regrow:

There are several fruits, vegetables and herbs that require little attention to reproduce. For example, green onion can be regrown by simply replanting the white bulb that is generally thrown out. Plant the bulbs in soil or place a few in a cup of water with the roots facing down. Soon, you’ll have fresh green onions for your next dish. Over-ripened garlic cloves can be replanted as well as avocado pits and citrus or pomegranate seeds. This is a free method to maximize your produce. Herb gardens are another frugal way to save a few bucks. Herbs can be pricey at the store, while growing at home is easy and fruitful in the windowsill. Try picking up some inexpensive seeds and planting chives, basil, cilantro, oregano, mint or parsley.

Hopefully these tips will inspire you to make eating at home achievable and satisfying. Challenge yourself to stick to a meal schedule, grocery list or food budget. Try new recipes with friends, and enjoy the social aspect of dining outside of the restaurant setting.

photo by ReneS

20 Ways To Save For a Little Something Extra

save for somethingWe all love to have a little special treat every now and then. Maybe you love Starbucks. Maybe you enjoy going out to see a movie with your spouse. Perhaps you want a new phone or you want to save for a trip. I personally love to get a coke every day at work. (Seriously, I know that’s sad, but it’s a special little treat I look forward to every day.) However, I also love to take big trips to see the world, and I definitely want to travel more before my husband and I decide to start trying for kids.

Of course, these goals and little extras don’t always coincide with our monthly budget, so I have to come up with creative ways to make some side cash so that I don’t feel guilty about going overboard. After all,  these little life pick me ups can often cost us a buck or two, and when you spread them out and add them over a year, the prices can be a bit astonishing. So, here’s what I propose: find a way to fund your extras through a means other than your current job. That way, you can continue to use your pay check for your monthly expenses, and you’ll have extra to put towards something you’ve been wanting for months but haven’t purchased yet.

Still not sure how to do it? Below are 20 ways to save for life’s little extras.

1. Tutor a high school or middle school student.

2. Sell crafts you make at a craft fair or online.

3. Deliver the newspaper in your town.

4. Become a contributing writer for a blog.

5. Walk other people’s dogs or simply take them to a dog park.

6. Pick up a weekend shift at a restaurant or become a bartender.

7. Become someone’s virtual assistant.

8. Have a lemonade stand (or at least encourage your kids to try it out.)

9. Become a high school sports coach.

10. Work overtime.

11. Grow your own produce. (This can work in a tiny apartment or with an expansive backyard.)

12.  Cut someone else’s grass. You’ll save money and get a great workout.

13. Give up your smart phone or try a pre-paid plan.

14. Bake bread, and sell it at work.

15. Put your savings into a high yield savings account.

16. Babysit a few times every month.

17. Cancel your gym membership and watch a workout DVD instead.

18. Go a month without buying clothes.

19. Commute to work with a friend.

20. Hang your clothes out to dry.

While I know that not everyone will be interested in or even able to do what I listed above, even one of these things can save you tens if not hundreds of dollars every year. For example, I know that most people wouldn’t dream of giving up their smart phone, but I’ve survived over a year without mine and was able to paid off my credit card debt in the process. That’s not to say that everyone should do what I did. It’s just an example to show that with a little change in habits, you can absolutely meet and exceed many of your goals.

If you’re struggling to cut down on your expenses, try to visualize your end goal. Do you want to step on a plane and go to Paris? Or, do you want to walk into a store and purchase a new TV with cash? Envisioning yourself actually achieving your goal can help you to push past those immediate wants to remind you of how amazing it will be when you get to your end goal.

If you know of any other side gigs that people can do to help support their monthly income, please add to the list in the comment section below. I’d love to hear your suggestions!

photo by DC Atty

When Leasing a Car Makes Sense for Young Families

leasing a carYoung people starting out have a lot of expenses associated with starting a family. They not only have the expenses related to purchasing a home, they also need to purchase food and clothing for their children as well as pay their school tuition. One way to reduce the amount of money spent on necessary items every month is to lease a car rather than purchase it. There are many advantages to leasing which can benefit a young family.

The first advantage is the reduced amount required for the monthly payment. Rather than having to pay several hundred dollars each month, a lease payment can be half the amount of a standard auto loan payment.   With car leasing going in the family friendly direction, more and more benefits are being offered to entice young families.

In addition to having a lower monthly payment, people who lease vehicles do not have to pay a large amount of taxes on the car they choose to lease. In contrast, purchased vehicles require the taxes on the full amount of the purchase price be paid at the time of the sale. A lease is also set up as a different contract agreement than a financial loan. Most people who choose to purchase a car take out loans in order to pay for the vehicle they choose, The payment period for these loans is stretched out over a long period of time, which can tie up necessary funds a young family might need for other situations.

One of the better benefits to leasing a vehicle is the maintenance and warranty coverage provided on the car. No wonder top business fleet management companies are headed in the leasing direction!   When purchasing a vehicle, the owner is responsible for all of the fees associated with maintaining the car unless they are still under warranty. Leased vehicles have warranties which cover the maintenance for as long as the person continues to lease the car. This also saves families money over the cost of having repair work done to their vehicle.

Another beneficial advantage is the ability to bring the car back to the dealer to terminate the lease or make an exchange. Many people who lease vehicles find it an easy and economical way to trade up to newer models. Many dealerships also offer customers the option of buying their leased car when the lease expires. This also saves money over having to come up with the cash amount for making a purchase right away. By deferring the purchase for a year, families have time to build up their savings so they can afford to get the car of their choice.

photo by brettlevin

6 Reasons Why Living In 270 Sq. Ft. Rocks

small apartmentMany of you know that I currently live in the Caribbean, but what you might not know is that my hubs, my dog, and I all live in 270 square feet. The truth? It. Is. Tiny. More truth? It’s also worth it! I never thought that I could live in a space so small, especially coming from an American Dream❠type space with multiple bedrooms and a backyard. Yet, I’ve learned that bigger is not always better, and here’s why:

1.         There is less to clean in a small place.

This is perhaps the biggest and most obvious perk to living in a tiny space.   There are fewer floors to sweep and mop, less dusting to do, fewer windows to wash, and less counter top space to scrub.   There is only one toilet and one shower that have to be cleaned.   Unless you enjoy the backache you get and the sweat you work up, you can see why having less square feet can be a blessing in disguise.   Now, if only a small place translated into less laundryâ¦

2.         A small home is cheaper to furnish, decorate, heat, and cool.

My little apartment doesn’t require much in the way of furniture or decorations. There’s just a bed, a table, and a big desk that the hubs and I share. We don’t have a sofa or a t.v., although we do wish we had those things from time to time. While we don’t have to worry about heating the space here in the Caribbean, I know that will be a perk of a smaller space for those of you who live in places where there are four seasons (and not just one!)

3.         A tiny space means more together time with my hubs.

Our tiny space literally encourages togetherness. Sure, we (literally) bump into each other or need to take some time to ourselves every now and then, but ultimately, it’s been nice to be around each other and a true test to keep our things where they belong.

4.         I’m forced to prioritize my possessions and be organized.

I can’t be a packrat in my home, or I’d be on an episode of Hoarders.   The limited space really forces me to stay organized.   I don’t keep or buy things I don’t need.   I think less stuff equals less stress, too. I even have an entire laundry bag full of clothes to donate. How I ever fit those clothes in my dresser to begin with is a mystery.

5.         A tiny place encourages me to get out more.

As a true introvert, I can totally be a homebody. But, this apartment it too small for that, and even I start to get stir crazy. I genuinely think my place encourages me to get more fresh air and do more activities outside. Sure, some days I come home after work and don’t leave again, but more often than not I get in some exercise, meet up with a friend, or run an errand.

6.         I can entertain small, intimate groups but never have to host Thanksgiving.

I love, love, love that I am never expected to host large gatherings or events at my place.   It’s the perfect size for another couple to join us for dinner, but not big enough to host holiday meals or showers.   I never experience the stress of deep cleaning the house before a party or meticulously planning when each dish has to come out of the oven in order to have Thanksgiving dinner ready at three o’clock.

Ultimately, I know my apartment is incredibly small by U.S. standards, but I think that living here has been such a great experience for us. It’s encouraged us to live more simply and focus on the things that are the most important.

What about you? Have you ever lived in a small space?

photo by brentdpayne

The Pros and Cons of Having a Smart Phone

smart phoneRecently, I was having a conversation with a good friend of mine who is struggling with her bills. I asked her to list the payments she was late on, and one of them was her cell phone bill. When I asked her about her plan, she insisted that she could never give up her smart phone. She argued that she used it for school, and that it was necessary for her to do well. The thing is, my friend was also late on rent and a few other things. Her lifestyle had far surpassed her means. Yet, regardless of what I said to try to help her, she could not agree to give up her smart phone plan.

Now, I may be young, but I wasn’t born yesterday. I know that a smart phone plan is not integral to any of our lives. It may make some aspects of our lives easier, but it in no way dictates how successful we are in our relationships or our work.

I have actually gone without a smart phone for 13 months. Because I was so addicted to it, it took me at least 6 of those months to fully get over my tendency to reach for it every spare moment. While my husband still keeps one for himself, I’ve saved us money every month by giving up mine. Plus, I find that life is quite peaceful without it now that I have broken the habit.

Still, many of you would argue that smart phones are quite useful, and to that, I would agree. In fact, here’s a list of pros and cons for owning a smart phone:


1. Instant access to all e-mails, which keeps you up to date in both your personal and professional lives.

2. GPS in case you get lost or need to find a specific store or address.

3. The ability to take videos on most high quality models and upload them instantly.

4. It can act as a small traveling computer, with important files and photos available at a moment’s notice.

5. An unlimited amount of apps that can help you in a pinch (need a level to hang a picture, anyone?)


1. Instant access to all e-mails, which keeps you up to date in both your personal and professional lives. (Yes, I realize I listed this as a pro as well. Sometimes being too connected is unhealthy.)

2. If it breaks, it is expensive to fix.

3. The plans for a smart phone are often double, if not triple, that of a regular phone.

4. You will often purchase a phone, only to have it surpassed quickly by the latest model.

5. They are very distracting, especially when it comes to games or e-mail notifications.

While I acknowledge there are certainly a great deal of pros to owning a smart phone, ones I weighed heavily when purchasing one to begin with, I am also quite happy not having one. Sure, my family members get frustrated when I can’t see a media message, but I just encourage them to be “old fashioned’ and send me an e-mail!

Making the transition to having a regular phone wasn’t easy, but it certainly was eye opening. I can’t tell you how many times I reached for my phone or went to check an e-mail out of habit. I had no idea how much time I spent using the phone until I no longer had access to all the perks of the smart phone. Now that I’ve gone over a year without it, I don’t even miss it. I’m able to do my work and write on my blog without the habit of stopping to check my phone. This choice has made me more productive and less stressed. I highly recommend it.

Do you go sans smart phone? Or, have you ever considered giving up the practice?

photo by calgaryreviews


5 Inexpensive Ways to Amass Your Own Personal Library

libraryI am what you would refer to as a bibliophile – someone who loves reading and collecting books.

Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve loved books. When I had no money (and our family didn’t give out allowances) I went to the local library to check out a book I was eager to read. Or, I would go to the back of my classroom at school and select one from the bookshelf – you know, the shelf nobody except the especially nerdy kids ever bothered to go near?

I started collecting books when I was around seven or eight after reading Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography. Franklin too was an earnest reader and spent all of his money he earned as a youngster working at his brother’s newspaper on books, using them to teach himself spelling, grammar, and good sentence structure.

While most of those books I collected then, such as Trumpet of the Swan and Chronicles of Narnia, are now in the large box marked “For the grandchildren” in my parents’ attic, I continued buying books when I went off to college.

It was there I began the process of amassing the large personal library I have today, which includes hundreds of books that fill up three large bookshelves, and then some. And I’m still adding to it whenever I can.

Name a classic (my definition may be somewhat different from yours), and chances are I have it tucked away somewhere.

The surprising thing is I built up this library while a poor college student and when I was working retail, yet I was able to pull it off, most of the time with the few spare dollars I had in my pocket.

For you aspiring bibliophiles out there, here are five personal tips of mine which may be of help in your quest to build your own personal library.

I do have to say, though, is that if you’re trying to buy a recently released novel or a specialized/technical book, this might be  more difficult, but it is still possible. These tips work the best when attempting to collect classical literature.

Additionally, you may have to give up book condition for frugality’s sake. You’ll get a book at Barnes and Noble in magnificent condition and exquisitely formatted, but chances are you won’t be able to buy more than two of those lovely books without having to put down a bill with President Grant’s face on it – unless they’re one of the classics.

1. Online stores

During my freshman year of college I purchased around 40 books and spent less than $100 on them. The trick is to buy them not only used, but in bulk from the same seller. If you do, the seller will generally ship them together to save on transportation costs. So rather than having to pay $2.99 each for three books, they can be shipped together for the same price.

Books can also be found eBay, though the auction environment can often cause prices to inflate. I’ve purchased several books on eBay, but only because they were unavailable anywhere else. If you’re looking for a rare book, I would recommend going here, but if you’re trying to keep a handle on your spending I would suggest looking elsewhere, though your experience may be different.

2. Thrift stores

Goodwill and Value Village are examples of great stores to look for books. Though their prices have jumped recently,  they’re still a relatively cheap. Most of their paperbacks run in the $1-3 range, which is a steal comparatively speaking. Hardcovers are around $5-6, though you’ll want to check individual store prices when you go in.

Often times you can find real treasures there, since unlike a book store they don’t price the book based on its print edition or age.

Once I found an $5 early edition of Dr. Zhivago, and inside there was a newspaper article from 1957 discussing the controversy the book generated when it first published in Italy, due to its anti-communist themes. I plan on getting the article laminated and taped to the interior of the book.

Another consideration is the book format, because this actually determines the price of the book. Many of the books in my library are Dover Thrift Editions; these books, designed for affordability, are extremely compact and tightly formatted. They’re cheap, but the price you pay is the readability, as it can sometimes be difficult to follow. The paragraphs tend to be elongated, which makes it harder to follow. and can slow down your reading pace. At the same time, if you can buy a Dover book for $2 instead of $20, and you’re strapped for money, it’s hard to turn down.

3. Used books stores

Stores like Half Price Books usually have a value rack in each book section with novels for one dollar. I even bought a copy of Our Mutual Friend, Charles Dickens’ last completed novel, for 50 cents. I walked out of my local Half Price Books many times with two bags of books, having spent only $10.

Additionally, sometimes you can find literary gems at stores, too, if you are willing to invest the time to look for them. Among my collection of old books is an 1888 edition of Les Miserables for $10. I later bought a newer version to read for $1.

These stores also have sales, so you can always check out their website to see if there’s one going on.

4. Library sales

These are another great place to go because libraries generally sell their books for a lower price. I haven’t gone to many library sales myself, but those whom I know who have always rave about some great deal they got. Check out your local library’s website or the friends of the library for any upcoming library book sales.

5. Garage sales and Craigslist

Dirt cheap and tax-free, this is the way to go during the summer or if you’re trying to get a specific book. Garage sales work because the owners are typically in a hurry to get rid of everything and therefore will have their books at bargain basement price.

The advantage of Craigslist is that you can find rarer books, like first editions, sometimes cheaper than regular books. The price often depends on the urgency of the buyer. Since it is more or less a kind of modern-day trade post, the price isn’t necessarily fixed, which gives you the ability to possibly lower it if the seller can’t find another buyer.

You can also check the “free” section of the site to see if anyone is trying to just get rid of books.

Lastly, this isn’t necessarily a tip, but you can also ask for gift cards to bookstores or specific books for birthdays, Christmas, etc.

photo by ell-r-brown

How I Paid off $6,000 In Credit Card Debt

credit card debtI didn’t have credit card debt for long. I didn’t suffer for decades. I never had creditors calling me, and I wasn’t in bad enough shape to get turned down for a loan. Yet, I still felt the weight of it every day. That’s the reality of credit card debt. Whether it’s $500 or $50,000, it’s still a nagging feeling, something extra on your to do list, and something that’s quite difficult to improve if you’re not willing to change habits and get in the right mindset.

How It Started

I got my very first credit card at age 22 for one purpose and one purpose only: to buy my husband (then fiance) his wedding ring. I didn’t have the money to buy something so expensive at the time, so I wanted to put it on a zero percent card and pay it over time. Of course, you probably know how it goes. Something that started out innocently enough grew into putting gas on it here or there and then we used it to fund a little bit of our honeymoon, etc. I’m not proud of how it started, but I do like to be honest about it.

When It Got Worse

We were managing our debt well enough and always paid above the minimum. I suppose I always felt that I was trying to get it back to zero, but I never sat down to figure out how much it would take. We both had steady jobs and were never late on a payment. Then, my husband decided to apply to medical school. We spent hundreds in application fees, and then when he got into a Caribbean school, we lost his income.

The Peak

As someone who is a personal finance blogger now, I shake my head knowing exactly what we did wrong. We didn’t track anything we were spending, which is just absolutely amazing to me now, as someone who plugs everything we spend into an excel spread sheet throughout the month. But that’s now, and we’re talking about then. We had good jobs and a comfortable life, but we didn’t have enough in savings, and we certainly didn’t have enough for international plane tickets to send the hubs to school. At the peak, we both maxed out a $3,000 card each.

Chipping Away At It

Before that $6,000 peak, we were actually trying to pay it down. Like I said, I was always aware of our debt, and I often felt the weight of it. I always paid above the minimum, and even managed to knock out a credit card for a TV we owned prior to my husband going back to school. (Yes, I know. Credit card for a tv = bad. My how things have changed.)

18 Months of Work

It wasn’t until 18 months ago that I laser focused my efforts on this challenge. For 18 months straight, I focused heavily on paying it off. I wanted it gone. I wanted it out of my life. We were accruing student debt due to my husband’s medical school tuition, and I didn’t want the credit card debt to get out of hand too. I started working as a freelance writer on the side. It was slow at first, but a year later, I am able to add a considerable amount of extra money to our monthly income. I have used this extra income every month to slowly pay off the debt.


I was hoping for victory by the end of this year, but it came sooner in the form of a promotion at work. That first paycheck was all I needed to finish off the credit card debt once and for all. I’m actually very proud of myself. While my husband certainly contributed to these efforts by not spending needlessly and not complaining about modest meals, I feel as though this is a personal victory too because it showed me how much can be accomplished with good old fashioned hard work. We now have $500 extra dollars a month (an amount I had been paying on our credit card debt for almost 10 months). It’s time to go to the next goal, which is paying down our student loan interest and maybe saving for a vacation. We’re so excited, relieved, and proud to be here saying we’re credit card debt free. If we can do it, we know anyone else can.

Who else is working on their goal of being debt free?

photo by vectorportal

How to Vacation on a Budget and Actually Have Fun

vacation on a budgetIn our culture of work a lot, then work some more,❠it can be nearly impossible to find some time off.   But taking a break, even just for a weekend, can be critical to our mental and physical health, not to mention our day-to-day productivity.   Time off allows us to relax, recharge, and come back to our regular commitments with a fresh perspective.

Even if we’re determined to take that break, though, feeling like we can afford to is another matter.   The costs of going away for just a weekend can add up pretty quickly, and financial stress can undo all the benefit your vacation might give you.   So how do you make it all work?

1. Pick your location that’s easy to get to

The cost of flights, or even train tickets, can really drive up the price of a vacation.     If you want to get away from cities, pick somewhere you can drive on a single tank of gas.   If you’d rather head downtown, consider leaving your car behind.   Try a discount bus line, like MegaBus or Bolt Bus, and get friendly with the public transportation once you arrive.   If you’re going to fly, book your flights in advance to get a lower price and use sites like Expedia or Kayak to compare airfare.

2. Use the internet to get a deal.

Discount sites like LivingSocial, Groupon, or Travel Zoo offer inexpensive travel packages that can give you over 50% off at pricey hotel and b&bs.   These will often have a certain number of meals or admission to local activities included in the cost, which makes them even more affordable.

3. Ask for a discount.

If it’s getting close to the date of your vacation, try calling local hotels and asking for a discount on room rates.   Often they’d rather book a room at a lower price than not make any money from it at all.

4. Stay with family or friends.

If you’ll only be there for one or two nights, ask people you know if you can stay with them.   You might even get a great local guide into the bargain.

5. Try camping.

Ditch the cost of hotels by camping.   Most national parks have free campgrounds; commercial venues will usually run under $20 a night.   If you have kids, setting up and exploring a campsite will keep them busy for hours, and many campgrounds have additional features like swimming pools or mini-golf for just a few dollars extra.

6. Use cash instead of credit.                      

It’s easy to lose track of how much you’re spending when it’s just being charged.   To keep track of what you’re spending on gas, meals out, and entertainment, have a set amount of cash with you and set a limit for what can be spent each day.

7. Eat out less.

If you’re going to be in the car, fill a cooler with sandwich fixings and bottled drinks.   Buy breakfast foods and keep them in your hotel.   Not every meal has to happen at a restaurant, even on vacation.

8.   Look for entertainment off the beaten path.

Museums, art galleries, national parks, historical sites, and beaches all provide low-to-no cost entertainment.   Ask at your hotel for ideas on places most tourists don’t go.   Take the family bowling or to play tennis; sporty activities last a long time and get everyone involved, but usually don’t cost very much.

9. Build in some time to relax.

Trying to fill every minute of a vacation is not only expensive, it can defeat the purpose of taking the vacation in the first place!   Instead, set aside time to relax with a good book, go for a walk around town, or take a nap in the afternoon.   It won’t cost anything, and the downtime will leave you feeling refreshed, even when it’s time to pack up and go home.

Traveling can be pricey, but if you plan carefully and, you can have a great trip that’s still easy on your bank account.

What’s your best tip for traveling on a budget?

photo by a2k


Save Money Easily: 4 Things You Can Live Without

smart phoneIn that past year, I’ve given up a lot of little luxuries in the interest of budgeting my money better and saving up for more important goals. It was extremely difficult at first to quit some of these habits cold turkey. However, as time has gone on, I feel much freer, healthier, and happier living without these 4 items that I used to consider staples in my life.

1. Soft Drinks

It’s crazy to think that I used to go to the store and put milk, tea, fruit juice, cokes, etc. all in my cart. I absolutely love juice, and well, soft drinks are pretty delicious. So, I never thought twice about purchasing them. Once my husband and I really started to focus on budgeting our money, these little extras went away. Today, having a soft drink is a special treat, something I might get when out to eat at a restaurant instead of always having them in my fridge. For the past year, we’ve stuck to coffee and hot tea in the mornings and water during the rest of the day. Also, we get the little added bonus of living in the Caribbean so we often pick fresh fruit from the yard and make juice. I can’t really count how much money we’ve saved by cutting out the extras, but I know it’s an easy fix if you’re on a tight budget.

2.  Smart Phones

I’ve now gone a solid 13 months without a smart phone, and yes I know it’s sad that I know the exact number. This was the absolute hardest thing for me to give up. For weeks after I turned it off in favor of the cheapest phone in the store, I seriously had phantom phone pains. Every time I was in a waiting room, I’d reach to surf the net on my phone only to realize I turned it off. It took a full 6 months before I broke this habit. It made me realize how much time I spent on my phone. I feel like I’ve gained back hours every day, and miraculously❠I can still run my blog and my freelance business without it.

3. TV

This one really goes without saying. We all know that we can live without watching TV; it’s just that few of us actually do it. I have personally enjoyed getting rid of my TV. Whenever I want to watch a show, I just catch it online. It’s as simple as that, and it saves me a good chunk of change every month.

4.  Beauty/Spa Treatments

Now, I realize that this one in particular is more directed towards the ladies, but gentlemen I know you like your nice haircuts too. It’s incredible how much money all of us spend on items in this category. Highlights for your hair, pedicures, eyebrow waxing, etc. all add up. I’m not saying to let yourself go or anything, but many of these maintenance❠costs can be fixed by yourself. You can even learn how to give your significant other a decent haircut after a little bit of practice!

Of course, quitting all of these things at once might be a bit much, so I recommend slowly weaning off of one at a time. Once you do, you’ll not only have hundreds of extra dollars a month but you’ll also feel healthier and more relaxed.

I’m sure these are not the only things that you can find to cut out of your monthly routines. These are just a few that I have personally dealt with. What are some of the things you’ve given up that others can’t seem to live without?

photo by denharsh