Archive for the 'Decluttering' Category

Powells.com – so good I am tempted to keep it to myself

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have a ton of books around my house.  They are about 10% textbooks, 75% popular fiction, and 10% misc fiction or reference.  As I reviewed this ton of books I wanted to dispose of, my first instinct was to drop it off at the local library, the books would go to a good cause and I would get a tax donation.  However, with a little more effort, I thought I could weed out some of the books for cash.

I’ve had this instinct before, and in the past I have tried to go to my local used book stores, I and it was NOT worth the effort.  Out of the back ache and time I spent, only a few were accepted and they were low-balled.  So … the internet.

In my search of “selling” “Used books”, etc, what I’ve found is that there are an abundance of textbook buyback sites, but very few of these will accept fiction – which was the overwhelming part of my collection…and then I stumped upon Powells– a used book store in Washington.  They allow you to bulk enter your ISBN numbers, they give you and online quote, and a printable media mail packing slip.   Your money is deposited into a paypal account.

There were a few reference books in the mix that boosted up the average, but the fiction probably averaged about 50 cents a title.  That may seem like very little, and I paid cover on almost all of them, but in reality – if i was to estimate the cost of these books for IRS purposes, I would estimate them also at 50 cents each, and that would be a tax deduction – subject to all those limitations, with the only possible benefit being to reduce my taxable income – so the value of donating any individual books is limited.  The other sites i found which accepted fiction were much lower, on the range of 10 cents a book.

I sold 33 books to powells.com, with an estimated payment of $35.50 dollars.  It took a few weeks for them to be received, they “rejected” about 10 of the books, and my estimate of 37 dollars turned into a 25 dollar deposit.  Now, they kept the books that they rejected and I wasn’t really called and asked whether I wanted my books back – I’m sure that was all in the terms of the offer which I clicked through. 

Again, this is a function of selling things online with no inspection.  I had a similar experience with cashforlaptops.com – see prior post.  So am I happy with Powells.com?  I am ecstatic and thoroughly recommend them as long as they can keep up this payment model.  Again, I probably could have gotten more money on ebay – grouping the fiction into lots by authors, but then i would have to pay commissions, make multiple trips to the post office, etc.  And I would be stuck with a lot of leftover books.  This was easy, the books were sorted and I had the ISBN numbers already, so all I had to do was cut & paste the ISBN list into Powell’s search form, print up the estimate & grab the books they accepted and box them up.  One trip to the post office & I didn’t have to wait in line b/c Powells paid for shipping. 

Overall Rating  – 9/10

Coming up a review on textbooks.com….

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Half.com – Rip off or just right?

So, I’ve made three real quick sells of video games on half.com.  I really didn’t read the terms of service, so I was a bit surprised by the haircut I took on these sales – 20% commision.  That being said, they were really easy sells, and I averaged out about 8.00 a video game sold after commission.  Linked to Paypal, it was quite easy to do media mail posts.  This a tough call for me, they need to make money, but I am unmotivated to list anything for under 3-4 dollars knowing the effort & commission now.  I think there must be a bulk sale of video game site that would be easier than this…so for now half.com is a 5/10.

New Motivation to Sell – New Sites to Review

Well, the original point of the site was to see how  I could funnel crap in my life into money for investments…now it looks like i will be funneling the money I make into …. diapers.  Yes, another kid on the way is more motivation to declutter my life and shove that excess savings into a  529 or into huggies stock.  As if the economy wasn’t reason enough.

I have a TON of old books around my house, I go through fiction very quickly.  I also have somehow held onto my undergraduate text books for a decade or so, and as a liberal arts major – I have a ton of books that no one wants to read – or so I thought.  I realized there is a whole niche industry devoted to buying textbooks and a much smaller one unfortunately for used fiction.  So in the past week I have tried out several sites and will post the reviews.   I sold 64 books to textbooks.com, 50 books to powells.com,  I instantly sold an item on half.com, and have sold an old digital camera on the old faithful, ebay.com.

Again, I continue to look for the easiest way to make the most amount of money – and i think indivually listing items on ebay is a good way to make yourself crazy.

Final Review: Cashforlaptops.com

Okay, so my initial quoate from them was 265 for a newer Toshiba laptop and 65 for a really old Dell laptop.  I should mention that neither of these laptops functioned, the dell’s mouse cursor was screwed up – it was always clicking which in a windows environment meant it was non functioning.  The toshiba literally had a battery and a/c adapter explosion – after which – it would not function with a battery installed (just outside of warranty).

The Toshiba was shipped, they emailed me saying there was a “hard drive failure” – which is crap, there was nothing wrong with the HDD – I wiped it clean, however, there probably was an undiagnosed motherboard problem.  They offered me 235 for it – took it, absolutely.

The Dell was shipped they emailed me saying there was a “battery failure” + laptop was in poor condition, they would offer me 35 dollars for it, again, took it, absolutely.

So here is the rub, they use stupid excuses to bring down the online quotes – but their online quotes are disproportionatley higher than ALL of the other laptop buyers on the internet, because they don’t ask enough questions to judge the condition of the laptops.  So is it a bit of a bait and switch, sure – but you still will probably end up with more cash in hand than with the competitors.

All in all, very happy with Cashforlaptops.com, the 270 has already been spent on christmas presents.

Donations: Ethics of Cleaning Out the Closet

I regularly donate old clothes and items to the Salvation army/Goodwill stores.   I just drop off bags/boxes of clothes & they give me a little receipt to fill out.  Last year when I did this, I happened to be cleaning out my old room in my parent’s house, which is in a more affluent neighborhood.  I asked the guy – what should I fill in for an estimate?  He said, ‘beats me – the last lady who came here, drove up in her Mercedes & dropped off two pairs of jeans and a dress and estimated the value at 10,000 dollars.”  Wow, I mean wow.  That takes cahones.  This was certainly illegal, but really she would never get caught – so what bothered me most was how she could walk away with a good conscience.  The IRS code lists guidelines for donations as “thrift store value” – I doubt anyone is going shopping for a 10K cocktail dress at salvation army, even if it is worth that much.

So I was pretty offended by this, and made sort of a rash determination about my haul – which was 3-4 garbage backs full of  shirts, pants & dress shirts, and 10 gently used suits that didn’t fit me.  I also threw in some electronics, a DVD player & a VCR.  I estimated the total value as $100 dollars.  When tax time came around I looked at this again and thought – I completely underestimated the value of at least the suits and dress shirts.  But it got me thinking, I’ve never bought a suit from Salvation Army or Good Will.  Each of these suits new were 150-350 dollars.  So how off was I?

This year again, it’s donation time, I’m clearing out the closet and I am faced with the Ethics of Donating used clothing.  I want to do the right thing, but I also could sure use an honest amount for my itemized donation this year (can’t we all?).  I think I’m going to go with $3-5 dollars a dress shirt or pants & $15 dollars a suit. 

Thoughts?

Possible Penny-Pinching: Coinstar – Thoughts & opinions?

The typical family has about 100 dollars worth of change around the house, I read that in some magazine I read over the past week, which makes the source Kiplingers, Business Week, or Forbes (the best I can do for a reference, sorry).  I am the typical family then, I have a bag of loose change at home, as well as a desk full of pennies at work – the pennies are there because I empty my change into my desk, then in times of stress or hunger I dig through for the silver ones and go to the vending machine – the pennies are are left over.

I have in the past used Coinstar machines to convert my change into cash & into Amazon.comgift certificates.  Conversion into cash costs a relatively steep 8.9% – but then i just take the certificate & pay for my groceries with it – I never get the cash.  Similarly, the amazon conversion costs nothing, but then I am stuck with this gift card code (not even a card, just a code) that i have to use before I lose it (physically, because in my state these codes don’t expire).  I like neither of these solutions, but between the two I prefer the cash (if you can’t tell by the blog so far. )

A third option is out there, prepaid visa cards – normally cost 10 dollars for the card + 5 dollars to refill.  The cards are manufactured by green dot.  However, while perusing my newspaper this week, I saw that green dot mastercards & visa cards are available for free after rebate from walgreens – so the 5 dollar refill charge leads to a 5% or less fee for counting my change.  That is not bad, and I can figure out places to use a visa card.

I’ve seen other places in the blogosphere with strong opinions on not using coinstar due to the 8.9% fee and suggest that I become a member at a bank that will count my change for me (not a big plus for the inconvenience of changing banks); go to a casino & change up (don’t live near a casino – not legal in California; or roll it myself (which I estimate will take 30-45 minutes + 2 trips to the bank, one to get rolls, one to change them in- way inconvenient)

Gift Cards Part Deux: We’re going with Giftcardbuyback.com

All right, so after being stood up by giftcardswap, I’ve done a bit of research and going to give Gift Card Buyback a try.  The percentage is not nearly as good, but again this is a sale not an auction that I have to wait around for a buyer.  My test case: I had have a merchandise credit for a book on tape i recieved (I’m an avid library user so this book was bound to go unused).  The merchandise credit is for $37.92 from Borders, and Gift Card Buyback is currently offering to pay 70% for this card which is $26.54.  At first blush this seems like some steep interest I am giving up, when I can possibly get 80-85% for the card value at auction or swap somewhere else or 100% if I just waited and bought another replacement book with it. 

However, two things.  First, the book that I returned to get the credit was worth $0 to me – I was not going to read it and it in all liklihood would have sat on my shelf for several years before I ultimately donated it to charity.  Secondly,  I consider the certainty & ease of use of just selling the card to be worth $5.00 (the difference between a guaranteed 70%  & a possible maximum return of 85% of 37.92), it is worth 5.00 not to set up an auction or wait for a matching trade and possibly have to relist the card multiple times before an actual sale.