June 26, 2017

Side Money Experiment: selling on Swappa

Selling old phones on SwappaAfter spending an astronomical amount on my phone replacement last year, and PiC’s third replacement trying to crap out, it was way past time to recoup any of our cost possible.

Note: this review is months after my actual sale experience so it’s a little dusty, but you’ll see the reason for that below!

I first signed up for Gazelle but they offered a whole $8 for one of our old phones which is absurd. The phone works well enough if you’re not a power user, which I am.

After poking around good ole Google for a while, Swappa looked promising, so I gave it a try with one of our Androids.

This process is a little bit less straightforward than selling on Poshmark, but nothing ventured, nothing gained!

Useful tips

  • The buyer pays for shipping – you have to build into your selling price.
  • The buyer pays the Swappa fee – you don’t need to build in your price.
  • Sellers are expected to ship within two business days of receiving payment.
  • Swappa’s return policy: Sellers define their own return policies on their listing pages.
    All seller return policies are based on the pre-condition that the device is received as advertised and in accordance with Swappa policies. No seller may deny a return / refund when a device is not as advertised.

To list and sell your phone

  1. Factory reset your phone. You could do this later, but it’s best to do it before you take the photos so buyers can see that it’s reset and turns on.
  2. Supply photos of your phone that show it can turn on, along with the sale code they provide you.
  3. Supply the ESN (which was incredibly hard to read on our phones because it was printed so tiny) so that the Swappa staff can verify that your phone is in good order.
  4. Write an accurate description of your phone and what it comes with. I’m still using my charging cord and wall plug for the Kindle, so I only listed the phone for sale with the protective screen cover and the phone case.
  5. Set your price. I used the current listing prices of the other equivalent phones as a baseline, plus a fee for shipping.

After several weeks of renewing my listing, I had a buyer!

I was notified first of the Paypal payment, then the instructions to ship arrived. I gave the phone one last going over to shine it up nicely, wrapped it securely, and took myself off to the post office where I decided to send it USPS flat rate for the tracking and the confirmation.

The buyer was a bit weird though.

I updated the sale when I shipped and provided the tracking number but there was no reply. Swappa sent him a comment asking him to confirm receipt and formally complete the sale – still no response. The buyer had a week to do so, but didn’t, and didn’t leave feedback either, so Swappa formally completed the sale for me.

A MONTH later, he emailed saying that the phone didn’t work, even though it was in working order when I shipped it.

Since it’d been 5 weeks since I sent him the phone and it was in good condition when it left my hands, as advertised, I offered some basic troubleshooting options and left it at that. He could have attempted to charge it back through Paypal, so I kept the money on the side to wait and see. It’s now been six months with no further communication so it might be safe to say that this one has been put to bed. I think.

Final verdict: My listing sold for $63 less the $7 paid for shipping flat rate with insurance. $56 blows the Gazelle offer out of the water, even with the minor inconveniences and irritations.

:: Do you sell your old tech or recycle it? Do you have a favorite site or store for resale or buying used?

April 7, 2017

How to Make Money before Going to College

College is an unforgettable time in any young person’s life, and while you leave with a qualification and clarity on your career, you are also likely to leave with a hefty student loan that you need to pay off. Knowing that you are going to take on such a large debt before you even start working can be daunting, but it also gives you ample time to save as much money as possible to cover your costs. Here’s how to get money before you go to college so that you don’t graduate with tons of debt.

Become a Tutor

If you are considering college, then chances are you are doing well enough academically to teach and tutor younger students. Running after-hours classes at your school library or even your house is a great way to make extra money, plus it is an impressive addition to your college application form. If you aren’t sure how to get started, then look for a tutoring service in your area, and apply to become a part of their tutoring team.  All that practice might even help you with your SATs.

Invest Early

Most children receive an allowance or money as birthday or holiday gifts. The standard response is to rush out and buy that toy or spend it on a new outfit. But investing any amount of money over a long enough timeframe will reap rewards.

If you start saving in your freshman year, you can earn significant returns that can help cover basic costs or can be reinvested to earn compound interest. Even though this calls for you to have money to invest in the first place, it is a smart way to grow your wealth before going to college.

Hold a College Clear Out Sale

Going to college represents a significant milestone as children move on to become adults. This means that it’s time to leave the comforts and clutter of home behind, and start fresh.

Leaving high school is the ideal time to clear out your bedroom and sell all the stuff that you don’t need anymore. From sports equipment and textbooks to old clothes and collectibles, holding a garage sale is a great way to clear out and make some much-needed money.

Skip Spring Break

You will need to make sacrifices to make money before you go to college, and one ritual that you can skip if you’re looking to save is spring break.

While this rite of passage may be tempting, it is also very expensive. Travel, food, and accommodation add up. If you’re serious about saving and making money for college, skip this party and use the break to earn money doing any jobs that you can. There will be plenty of parties in college and it’s best not to not have money when they come around.

Ask for Help

A lot of high school children ask their parents for new phones, cars, or lavish birthday parties. The easiest way to make money before you go to college is to ask for it. Set up an account when you’re in high school and encourage your family to make deposits for your birthday, or over the holidays.  You will be surprised at people’s generosity, and if you start early this little investment could go a long way when you finally need it.

Do What It Takes

Whether you take work on Fiverr, work at your parents’ shop or sell artwork on the corner, the essential point is that being committed to making money before college will pay off. Play to your strengths and push people to help you – they will respond because you’re helping yourself.

March 29, 2017

How to Refinance Your Student Loans

This guest post is from Amanda Ellison, a financial advisor from San Diego specializing in working with Millennials.

Student loan debt is at an all-time high, and it continues to rise. In 2016, the average graduate had over $37,000 in debt, a six percent increase from 2105.  With a large number of college graduates facing mounting debt, it is little wonder that many are struggling to make their monthly student loan payments.

Much like a mortgage, student loans can be refinanced with a lower interest rate; in fact, student loan refinancing has become a hot topic among borrowers as a way to potentially lower payments and reduce interest rates.

Refinancing student loans is a form of consolidation for borrowers with private student loans.  It works by replacing multiple student loans — which can be private loans, federal loans, or both — with one new private loan.  The primary benefit of refinancing your student loans is that you may be able to obtain a lower interest rate, and save money over the life of your loan. In some cases, student loan refinancing can result in lower monthly payments.  You may also be able to extend or shorten the repayment time period, but as a general rule, you should pick the shortest possible time that you can to repay your loan. It may also be beneficial to make a single monthly payment rather than multiple payments each month to various loan servicing companies.

In December 2016, the Federal Reserve announced a rate increase for the interest rate. This will likely have an impact on the interest rate for student loans, which are tied to rates that tend to follow the Fed.  This increase — and several additional proposed increases over the course of 2017 — may be another reason to refinance your student loans. This is particularly true if you have a variable rate private student loan.  A variable rate student loan has the potential to rise as the interest rate rises.  A refinanced loan with a lower fixed interest rate may give you stability and ultimately lower your monthly payments and the total cost of your student loans.

Before making the decision to refinance your student loans, you first need to understand what kind of loans you have and what their terms are. If you do not have a copy of your loan documents, you can view them via the government’s online database for federal loans, the Federal Student Aid portal or the National Student Loan Data System.  For private student loans, you can obtain a copy of your credit report to determine if you have any private student loans.  You can then contact your loan servicing company to obtain a copy of the loan terms and conditions.

If you have federal student loans, carefully consider whether you want to refinance these loans along with your private loans.  Federal student loans have certain protections that private student loans do not, such as loan forgiveness and income-based repayment plans. You should also look at your current interest rate on your private student loans.  If the interest rate on your current loans is low and fixed, refinancing your student loans may not save you money.  There are a number of online refinance calculators that will allow you to input information from your current loans to determine if you will save money by refinancing your private student loans.

If you decide to refinance your student loans, you can compare lenders through a number of online marketplaces, such as LendEDU, Student Loan Hero, and Credible.  Each site will offer rates from a number of different banks, student loan companies and other lenders, along with information about each lender.  You can then determine which rate and lender would be the best choice for your student loans.  The rate that you ultimately receive will be based on a number of factors, including your credit score, job history, educational background, and income.  As a general rule, your credit score must be no lower than the mid-600’s in order to qualify for a student loan refinance. Rates for student loan refinancing range from as low as 2 percent to as high as 9 percent.

Refinancing student loans does not cost money, and there are typically not any fees associated with refinancing private student loans.  Be wary of calls, emails or letters that you may receive offering deals on refinancing or consolidating your student loans.  These are often scams, or they may charge you money for something that you can do yourself for free or for very low cost.

Once you have been approved for a student loan refinancing, your new loan servicing company will pay off all of your old loans.  You will then start to receive statements from the new lender each month.  If you have automatic payments set up, remember to change the payments to reflect the lender, and work towards paying off your student loans with one easy monthly payment.

Refinancing student loans isn’t the best choice for everyone, but if your student loans have a high interest rate, a variable interest rate, or if you have many different student loans, it may be a good choice for you.  With some advance planning and preparation, the process of applying for refinancing is relatively simple, allowing you to make a substantial step towards paying down your debt in a few simple steps.

November 30, 2016

Currencies Direct – A review for the private investor

This post has been provided by a guest.

Currencies Direct is a UK-based currency transfer company that provides private and corporate clients with access to a variety of foreign currency. In contrast to high-street banks, Currencies Direct’s rates are favourable for their clients as a result of lower spreads.

The firm, which is rated 93.2% on MoneyTransferComparison.com review site, has level 1 credit from D&B, and has won multiple industry awards, is mostly focused on the following audiences: expatriates, overseas property investors and small businesses. Currencies also caters to additional audiences like foreign stock traders and investors.

The process is rather simple for UK-based individuals. A prospective client inputs his or her details on the signup form, and the system will automatically approve the account in most instances (unlike global clients who may be required to send scanned documents as bank account and address proofs). After a client application is approved, he or she can get full access to today’s rates through an online system.

As an additional value to the service, each client who is transferring more than £5,000 can speak directly to a certified FX trader. This enables the client to do two important things:

  1. Negotiate the rates with his dealer. In some cases, Currencies Direct will be able to offer better rates than the ones the client sees on CurrenciesDirect.com. This information is quite unique to this Currencies Direct review, as the company doesn’t admit that openly (the fact prices are negotiable is not highlighted on the company’s website).
  2. A dealer would be able to offer market commentary and guide each client on the best timing to conduct the necessary transactions. As the foreign exchange markets are volatile, this service can potentially save more money than the currency rates which are offered. Also, you can buy hedging derivatives through the dealer.

The derivatives offered are Forward Contract, Put Option, Call Option and Time Option. They prove to be an extremely useful array of tools for investors, as they can help investors who are interested in tapping into foreign markets to neutralise the impact of currency fluctuations.

An example of how it works – Gentleman Joe from London is interested in investing his savings into the booming USA market, and he is looking to cherry pick several particular stocks he fancies. He needs to buy these stocks in US dollars, so he uses Currencies Direct to move the money to his trading brokerage. Then, he wants to mitigate the inherited risk of currency exchange. His best option to hedge and even possibly gain is through buying put options. He doesn’t have to run sophisticated calculations on which option, which strike price and date – the dealer does all of that on his behalf, and all he needs is to sign it off. This way, if the stocks that were picked gained, but the dollar depreciated against the pound, the put option will come into place and compensate the investor for the GBPUSD increase. If the stocks gained, and the dollar also gained against the pound, the investor will earn money on both counts (while, of course, losing on the premium paid for the options that were not executed).

In summary, private investors can benefit from dealing with a currency exchange company like Currencies Direct, both to minimize the spreads paid on foreign currency buying, and as an affordable, easy way to access the fx derivatives market, without having to personally master this complex area.

October 24, 2016

Side money experiment: mTurk

Background: 2 years ago November, J. Money and I had a quick chat that spawned this post on earning side money and then I started tracking our earnings publicly because it’s always more fun that way. PiC is our resident Craigslister and I’m the resident Try Anything Once-er.

As previously mentioned in the May and June monthly reports, I gave mTurk a little test run.

My time was particularly tight in those months so it wasn’t a smart time to be trying new things but I wanted to dip my toes in and give it a wiggle. I think because it was so time-crunchy, my brain really needed to know that it wouldn’t last and the way to give myself hope for that is to do something new that feels purposeful and makes a bit of money.

After a couple months, spending nibbles of time when I was taking a mental break from work, I haven’t cracked any secret codes. Tasks are most available during business hours, and you do better when you spend time on skill-based tasks, I think. The tasks I’ve been qualified for are things like surveys which don’t earn much.

Total earned: $50.95

Whether it’s bad timing or lack of effort, mTurk isn’t for me right now. I’ll put this experiment on hold until I have a bit more time to play with it.

:: Have you tried mTurk or anything like it? Would you use your spare 5-15 minutes a day on something like this?

August 29, 2016

Side money experiment: selling on Poshmark

Side Money Experiment 1: Selling clothes with PoshmarkBackground: 2 years ago November, J. Money and I had a quick chat that spawned this post on earning side money and then I started tracking our earnings publicly because it’s always more fun that way. PiC is our resident Craigslister and I’m the resident Try Anything Once-er.

One of my challenges in the Great Wardrobe Curation has been getting rid of clothes that need to exit stage left. They normally still have plenty of wear in them, don’t fit quite right but aren’t worth the cost of tailoring, or that I can’t tolerate wearing any longer, like heels. It doesn’t make sense to keep them and getting both space and money back would be double the fun.

With plenty of encouragement from Penny to give it a try, even with my decidedly unfancy wardrobe, and armed with her quick tutorial, I quickly made up an account on Poshmark and listed a handful of shoes. One pair of heels I’ll hold on to, for faking professionalism until I get better flats, but most of them can go.

At first it didn’t seem like it was meant to be. It took 4 hours to download the app. First, I never remember my Apple ID so downloading isn’t the breeze that it was from my Android. I mean, sure, security but sometimes you just want to be able to get your darn free app! Then it wanted 3 hours to think about downloading. Awesome.

Once the app was running, it was pretty simple to start listing things. They encourage you to list 10-12 items to start but in reality there was no requirement to do that so it seemed like the perfect way to tiptoe into selling a few things at a time. I just can’t commit to a huge overhaul in one go.

I created an account (I loathe creating usernames) and started snapping pictures. It only took 20 minutes to list four items, and most of that time was spent looking up the information and coming up with useful descriptions.

It was easiest to start with shoes since I hadn’t a clue what I was doing. There was immediate beginner’s luck with a rash of sales, and three sales and three weeks later, I’m still waiting for more real nibbles.

What I learned

Most people want to negotiate so set your prices a little higher than you’re willing to sell for. That way you can compromise more.

You don’t need to bargain in the comments, your potential buyers have the ability to make an offer which you can ignore (it expires in 24 hours), counteroffer, or decline. If you decline outright, Poshmark will send you an email suggesting that you counteroffer so that there’s dialogue. Declining the offer means that attempt at a sale is over.

USPS ships you free shipping envelopes and boxes, as Penny had pointed out in her very helpful post. They’re really slow, though, and only ship in packages of 10 items each, so if you’re not dropping by the post office to pick up a box or two, it’s a bit of a commitment.

I’m incredibly impatient. I sold three items in the first 4 days of selling using existing packaging and then it’s been all quiet. After the first sales, I ordered a few basic shipping supplies from USPS and now I have STUFF sitting around the house, waiting to be used. I knew I should have waited!

You’re encouraged to package your sold items nicely. This means wrapping things in tissue paper, and adding a note for your buyer. As an inveterate recycler, I dug into my abundant stash of used tissue paper, sealed them up with thank you labels from one of my last labeling projects, and shipped in repurposed Amazon boxes while waiting for the USPS shipping materials. All were accepted by the buyers quickly and happily.

Speaking of acceptance, the buyers have 3 days after the package delivery to officially accept your shipped product or to file a report if they feel it didn’t match the selling description. You should be really specific about your items to make sure that your buyers know what they’re getting. I take pictures of any possible flaws for the item profile to be sure.

As a seller, you’re given a week to ship, but they like you to ship sooner. I didn’t have a problem with shipping within 2 days since I’m selling such low volume.

Total earned: $37

I won’t say this is a flop, it’s only been a few weeks, even if it feels longer. The early success certainly raised my expectations unrealistically – I always knew that I didn’t have a ton of saleable items but it was worth the try. Other than the Poshmark fee which I wouldn’t have paid if I didn’t make money myself, and some time obsessing over pictures and listings, I didn’t lose anything.

:: Are any of you successful Poshers? What am I (likely) doing wrong? How long would you list items for before giving up and donating?

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