Wednesday, November 5

Save some money: De-clutter

It could just be winter fever setting in early. Or maybe it's almost two months without a working vacuum. (I finally broke down and borrowed someone's because I couldn't stand it anymore.)

Whatever the reason, I've been going absolutely bonkers in our apartment.

Combined with Ramit's 30-day challenge, it's an excellent reminder about one of the best ways to save money: De-clutter.

There are actually 3 ways that paring down your belongings can benefit you financially.

Sell your stuff

Whether you go for Craigslist, eBay, or garage sales, you can get some greenbacks for your unwanted items. This can go toward bills or your emergency fund, but no matter what, extra money is always good.

The other great way to make some money is selling your books.

This is hard for me, because I love books. I grew up in a single-wide trailer that had 17 bookcases of varying heights. So the idea of getting rid of books is practically blasphemy. I love books.

But the thing is, I rarely reread anything. I can think of perhaps 5 books that I have willingly reread since high school. So, this Friday night, I will be making some piles of books to resell to stores in the University District. (Always be sure to call and find out days and times that they buy.)

More space

People tend to complain about lack of space. There's the old adage that we all manage to expand our possessions to fill available space.

This, in turn, means we feel cramped. We're aware of the clutter. It drives us to get even bigger places, which we adeptly fill up, or to go out more to escape the mess and the claustrophobia. Either way, you're spending money: on higher rent or on food/drinks/cover charges.

No more organizational products

If you're anything like me, your eyes get kind of wide-eyed in the organization aisle of the store. In this hallowed arena are plenty of (slightly overpriced -- but not enough to deter you) items that promise to put order in the chaos of your life.

  • Organize your closet -- it will be serene and you'll finally wear all those clothes you buy.
  • Organize your cupboards -- you'll never have to root around around for that spice. You'll stop losing track of groceries, and will use everything you buy. Uber-thrifty!
  • Organize your desk -- never hunt for a pen again! Enjoy a clean, orderly work space that increases productivity.

You get the idea. The point is that companies like Rubbermaid, Ikea, and Martha Stewart take financial advantage of our fantasies of an orderly existence.

But these items wouldn't be necessary if we had less stuff to begin with. It's a lot harder for there to be clutter when you have only what you need.

When you think about it, these products are just another form of materialism. They enable rampant consumerism. Heck, they wouldn't exist without it!

More importantly, they perpetuate the system of buying to make ourselves happy. They promise a better life, with the purchase of this one product (or, at least, one product line). It's another way to get us to believe that happiness lies in a store.

So I, quite literally, am no longer buying it!


As for my version of Ramit's 30 day challenge, the results are mixed.


No actual sales yet, though a couple people have expressed interest in a few items. And I have identified a few more items that I might be able to sell.


I will get $20.07 back from a return. We got some shirts from Sierra Trading Post in April. Two of them weren't Tim's favorite. But we forgot to send it back and the label expired. Today I checked with an agent and they are still returnable. That will be credited back to my card, but I'm still counting it as savings because this challenge is what finally got me off my duff.

The real savings, though, will come in the form of internet. For reasons too long to explain, my cable modem bill is currently in my mom's name and her cell phone bill is in my name. We've been meaning for some time to switch, but as of tomorrow she's supposed to call and start the process. Then, Tim or I should be able to sign up for an introductory deal for the Internet. This means I'll go from paying around $60 a month to $19.99. (Or, at worst, $29.99.)

I'm still investigating TV savings. I am planning on calling Comcast in the next couple of days to see what specials they have, but so far it's not looking great. I called Dish to find out if there were any special offers for committing to another contract. The best they offered me was $2.98 a month for DVR (instead of $5.98) if I signed up for 2 years (!!!) so that's not of much interest.

Yes, $3 a month is still savings. But usually starting in late November, cable and satellite companies start offering really juicy savings. Given that people are staying home even more, I figure they will really start pedaling deals this year. So I want to keep my options open for a few more weeks.


Through Vindale, Cash Crate and occasionally Squishy Cash, I am earning in dribs and drabs. With Vindale, I like to do only a couple of offers at a time, since I have to be careful to cancel free trials before being billed.

I'm using a calendar to keep close track of which programs to cancel on which days. Still, my depression sometimes makes small tasks seem insurmountable, so I am trying to keep the schedule light.

Today, though, I signed up for a program which, after I cancel in 10 days, will net me $12. And on Cash Crate and Squishy Cash combined, I earned about $5 while watching TV. So this is a potential source for bringing in some extra dollars, here and there.

I'll try to get a running total once a few of my pending earnings have been processed, which should be soon.

Is anyone else trying something along these lines? I know a few of you were inspired by the spirit (if not the tone) of Ramit's challenge.

Labels: , ,


Blogger Shevy said...

When I read your comment about the bookshelves I had to laugh. I used to have 17 linear feet of bookshelves, each with 5 or 6 shelves!

Since the flood I had a couple of years ago I'm not sure what I have since everything ended up boxed up (none were damaged but all the shelves had to be discarded because IKEA and water don't mix). Some books are still in boxes and the shelves I have aren't all lined up along the wall of my living room. In fact, I split my books between my 2 homes so it's really hard to tell.

But I reread my books over and over. Still, there are some that have become less important to me over time. For example, I had (up to a certain point a number of years ago) pretty well every Star Trek book ever written. One day I realized that I was only reading most of them once. (This may have been the day I read a book by Peter David where all the alien characters were named for the items on the seder plate! But I digress....) Money was tight and eventually I stopped buying them. But I never got rid of the ones I had.

I finally went through them a couple of moves ago and separatd them into the ones I want to keep forever and the ones I'm done with. I want to sell those books (along with a bunch of other books, including ones that were my mother's) but I never get to the point of actually doing it.

My hubby *buys* stuff on eBay but we've never sold anything there. I don't know whether to try to sell the books in general and the collectable books in particular on eBay or Amazon or half. I'm afraid of the costs, of the hassle of boxing and shipping, etc. and it keeps me from moving ahead.

Do you think I should just give up and give the books to charity, or try to sell them? What do you find to be the most successful way to sell books? (I've already carted them around to a couple of second hand bookstores and they took very few. Other places just want to trade me for other used books.)

November 10, 2008 at 1:51 PM

Blogger Abby said...

Hmm... Well, if you've already tried the route of secondhand stores, you're one up on me.

I think some of it depends on the value of the books.

For instance, you might be able to offload the Star Trek books on Craigslist. There are probably plenty of trekkies scrounging around online. (Might also be interesting to see what people might trade you for.)

I've also heard good things about book-swapping sites, though it sounds like you're not in the market for *more* books. Otherwise you'd have taken the offer for trade-in value.

As far as eBay, I've never much understood selling books on there. I kind of get schoolbooks and maybe understand bestsellers. But regular books? I just can't see much profit in it. On the other hand, I'd never even thought about selling books on So clearly I'm not "with it."

However, I should point out that Amazon has a pretty cool program where you can sell your books as an individual. You just list them the one time and that's it. If someone buys, Amazon notifies you and helps with some of the cost of shipping.

Still, it sounds like maybe you would prefer to forgo shipping the books anywhere.

If so, I think the best route is to just donate them for the tax-write-off. I don't know how such things work in Canada. But for folks here in the US I always suggest keeping a list of the items you donate and the approximate value (be realistic, folks!) so that you have records as needed.

November 10, 2008 at 2:37 PM

Blogger Shevy said...

Unfortunately, in Canada we don't get to write off donations of things like clothes and household items. I could write off a donation of artwork or a vehicle in running condition. But I don't have those to donate.

You've given me a couple of ideas though. I hadn't considered Craigslist. I guess that would eliminate my having to pack and ship things.

And it sounds like Amazon might be better than eBay which strikes me as a whole series of fees to pay (to list the auction, to put pictures on, to pay PayPal fees, etc.). Given that I've seen those books going for 99 cents on eBay I doubted I could make any money by the time they finished charging me for stuff.

Yes, I'd have to ship the books, but I wonder if I'd make more money with Amazon than on Craigslist (where I'm assuming it's only local people buying, so a smaller market).

I wasn't keen on trading because the places didn't have enough books I really want (they would give me 2 of theirs for each of mine). But maybe Paperback Swap, so I could get exactly what I want? Or some combination of the above?

Decisions, decisions. Thanks for the help though!

November 10, 2008 at 7:32 PM


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home