Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Sell At A Kids' Consignment Sales

Tip #276 - Sell At Kids' Consignment Sales. A while back, I wrote a post series about where to sell your used things. At the time, I listed consignment sales as an option for selling your children's toys and old clothes. While I knew about this venue, and had shopped at them many times, I had never tried my hand at selling at one of them. As of last week that has changed, so I am going to go more in-depth on this topic.

In most major cities and in some smaller towns, there is a relatively new (I don't remember these when I was growing up) phenomenon of holding kids' consignment sales either once or twice per year in spring and fall. They are often held by preschools, churches, or even private companies. In small towns, there may be one big one per year, while in larger cities, there may be a half-dozen of such sales each weekend in March/April and September/October.

You might have to be a member of the particular church or preschool to sell at these sales, but many of them let outsiders sell there, too. If you have a large lot of kids' clothes, a bunch of old toys, or outgrown baby things, this is the perfect venue for getting rid of a large amount of stuff at once, while still making money.

Why sell your things at a kids' consignment sale versus other venues? As a seller on eBay, I love eBay for selling items when the item is worth at least $10. Is it worth my time and effort to list a bunch of $2 and $3 items on eBay? No way. How about Craigslist? That's another selling venue that I love for items that have wide appeal, are worth at least $10, and are too big to ship on eBay. But most buyers won't come out to a person's house for a $2 or $3 item. Yardsales? This is a great place to sell odds and ends but the chances of getting only shoppers who are looking for kids' items are pretty small. Consignment stores? Another great venue for selling some better name clothes but not so good for a bag of boys' socks.

So basically, for a large amount of items that are worth between $1 and $8 each, the kids' consignment sale becomes the perfect venue. It is a place to get rid of a lot of stuff at once. If you are interested in selling at one of these sales, check out some local moms' sites in your area or check out Kids Consignment Sales. The list isn't inclusive, but is a good place to start. Look for a sale that allows outside sellers, and contact them about how to consign at their next sale. Most consignment sales take 50 percent of the proceeds for their church, preschool, or business, but you may get as much as 70 percent at some sales if you volunteer a few hours at the sale. As a bonus, volunteers often get to attend a preview sale before the public.

Once you decide on a particular sale to sell at, you need to follow their guidelines for selling. Most only let you sell in-season clothes, some take all seasons. Some take clothes up to size 14; others do only younger kids' clothes. Some take baby gear; others do not. For most sales, you need to tag your items with an index card of some sort with the name of the item, the price, and your initials or other identifier. You also need a tagging gun or safety pins, and some tape. At the end of the sale, you usually have the option of picking up your unsold items or leaving them there to be donated to charity. After a few weeks you get a check in the mail for 50 percent (or 60-70%) of what you sold.

In order to prepare for these sales, keep two boxes in the garage, basement or out-of-the-way place. One box should be for the upcoming sale, such as the March spring/summer sales. The other can be for the sale that just passed (fall/winter). As you pull clothes from your children's drawers and closets that no longer fit, put them in the right box. Toys and other non-seasonal items should go in the upcoming sale's box. About a few weeks before the sale, start tagging your items. Price them at prices you would be willing to pay at such a sale. A non-designer pair of jeans tagged at $8 will be unlikely to sell and will end up getting donated. Instead price them competitively at $3 or $4, so they do sell. A few days before the sale, bring over your items to the church or school and then just sit back and wait for your check to arrive in the mail!

In Real Life (IRL) - I love kids' consignment sales! While prices are higher than yardsales, I don't have to drive all over town to find a sale that is selling what I want. Going to a big church multipurpose room filled with kids' clothes is the perfect shopping venue for me. And this past fall, I decided to see if it was the perfect selling venue for me, too. Since I am an experienced eBay and Craigslist seller and an avid consignment sale buyer, I have a good feel for what sells well and at what prices I can expect.

About a month before the spring sales started, I looked at all of the different sales in my area on my favorite local DC site, called Our-Kids. I had probably been to about 10 of the consignment sales in the past and knew which ones were bigger, which sold better brand clothes, and which were well-attended. Based on my experience, I picked a sale where I thought my things would do well (I actually picked a smaller sale that isn't overloaded with clothing and didn't have a consignor fee to participate).

About a week before the sale, a friend came over who was also going to sell at the same sale, and we tagged our items together. We had a fun afternoon, while our kids played, and we got most of the tagging done in just a couple of hours. Afterwards, I double-checked a few items on eBay to make sure they weren't high sellers, and I actually pulled a few things out of my box which I thought I could make more money on on eBay. I also added a few things during the week as I scoured through my children's rooms. The day before the sale, I dropped off my bags of items (about 40-50 things total) at the preschool.

The sale was last weekend. I attended during the last hour and saw that most of my items were sold. I'm not sure yet how much I earned, but I'm guessing it will be about $50 for a bunch of smaller items that I had nowhere else to sell. Not bad for a couple hours of "work" with my friend.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Find Out What Your Savings Bonds Are Worth

Tip # 275 - Find Out What Your Savings Bonds Are Worth. Did your grandparents give you savings bonds for birthdays? Christmas? Special Occasions? Remember those birthday envelopes that you opened and you hated? It wasn't a present. It wasn't even cash. It was bonds to become cash one day in the future. The value on the bond would say '$25' or '$50' or maybe even '$100.' And at first you thought, "Cool, I just got a $100 birthday gift." But then your mom or dad would remind you that it's not worth $100 today. It would be worth $100 at some point in the future. "Aww, shucks," what a bummer gift, you thought.

Well, if you are now in your twenties, thirties, or older, you may be changing your tune a bit about those "bummer gifts," if you haven't yet cashed in those bonds, that is. A typical bond that was given as gifts was often the "EE" bond or "Double E" bond as they are known. While the bond may have taken 5, 7, or 10 years to be worth the face value written on the bond, they continue to earn interest for a total of 30 years. And if you got them as gifts back in the 1980's that interest may have been 6%. In the early 90's it was also earning about 4% interest. In the early 2000's, a little over 3%. Find me a place today where I can get a relatively risk-free, tax-deferred interest of 6%, and I'd be a happy woman. Problem is you can't. Which is why if you are still holding on to these bonds, and they are still earning interest, then they are the gift that is still giving (unlike that plastic toy Cousin Myrna gave you that you thought was cool that has long since broken).

So, think back to your younger years, give your mom or dad or grandparents a call, look in the lockbox and find out if you are still holding on to these savings bonds. If you find out that you still have some, then go to Treasury Direct to find out what they are worth. Key in the Series (such as 'EE'), the Denomination, the Serial Number, and the Issue Date and it will calculate the current value of the bond. Even if you do not know the serial number, it will still calculate the current value. If the bond is no longer earning interest, then the result will show a blank under "Interest Rate." If it is still earning interest, then it will show the rate that the bond is earning and will give the final maturity date of the bond (after which it will no longer earn interest).

If you find out that your bond is no longer earning interest, then head over to your local bank with your bonds and talk to a staff person there about cashing them in. If the bond it still earning interest, take note of the maturity dates of each of your bonds, so you can cash them in when they mature. You can cash them in before maturity date, but chances are you won't be able to make as good of an interest rate in other risk-free investments today, so consider carefully if you really need to cash them in.

In Real Life (IRL) - For the last several years, I have been keeping a net worth statement. At first, the amount I had written down on the staement for my EE bonds was just an estimate. I estimated the worth of the bonds based on the amount of interest I remembered that they were earning. Then about a year ago, I was curious if my estimates were really that accurate. So I pulled my bonds out of our safe-deposit box and found the Treasury Direct website, and calculated their worth. My estimates actually had been a bit low because I had forgotten about some bonds that I had gotten as gifts. More importantly than the worth, I took note of the maturity dates on the bonds and made a list of when I needed to cash them in.

Flash back to September 1980 - I celebrated my bat-mitzvah and was given a few bonds as gifts. My parents saved them for me and gave them to me when I graduated college. Fast forward to September 2010 and the bonds are now 30 years old! Not only that, they have stopped earning interest - they were earning 6% annually all of these years. Yesterday, I pulled them out of the safe deposit box again, and I am going to head over to local branch of my bank this week to cash them in. The four bonds that I have from 1980 have denominations of $100, $100, $75, and $50. Today they are worth $1088! Woohoo! The nice thing about government bonds is that you don't have to pay taxes on the interest that they are earning until they are cashed in. (Boo! That means I have to pay taxes on my cashed-in bonds this year.) I still have a bunch of bonds left that I bought in the early 1990's that are currently earning 4% interest (tax-deferred), so I am going to leave them earning interest for now.

So for all of you who think you may have bonds buried deep inside the desk drawers in your house or have them stashed away in a vault at the bank, take note of what you have. Make a list of the issue dates and maturity dates so you can cash them in as soon as they stop earning interest for you. The Treasury Direct site is a neat one, and you can play around with other features on there after you have calculated the worth of your bonds. Now go thank Great-Aunt Sophie for those bonds!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Do A Third-Quarter Review

Saving Money Tip #274 - Do A Third-Quarter Review. It's hard to believe that I just ripped out the September calendar page. In some ways it seems like winter just ended. Three-quarters of the year gone by. It's true that time seems to go faster as we get older. Anyway, enough philosophizing. Today is the day I suggest looking back on the past year to see how well you are doing meeting your goals. Enough of the year has gone by to get a good take on what you have been successful with and what need more work. And there is still a bit of time to make things right again and get closer to your goals before year-end.

So look into your checking accounts, check your balances online for your mutual funds, look at your balances on your credit card loans and car loans or other loans you might have. And come up with net worth. While looking at how much your savings balances have gone up and how much your debt balances have gone down, a net worth calculation gives you a good snapshot of your overall picture.

Today is also the day that you can begin to look forward to next year's goals and plan for the year ahead. Back to school season has slowed down a bit and holiday season hasn't yet kicked in. So there is time to start thinking about next year. Specifics do not need to be written down just yet. But thinking about general goals and vision of what you want in the next year financially can be a good start to making formal financial goals and a written budget at year end. It's soon to be open season for health insurance and other benefits at your place of employment, which is another big factor in your budget and finances.

So tak ean overview of how you are doing so far with your finances, work hard to meet any goals before year-end, and make some general plans for next year.

In Real Life (IRL) - I calculated a net worth statement a few days ago. I had some free time, so I did it a bit early. I pretty much did nothing with our finances over the summer, so this was the first time I got to look at how we are doing. As is par for the course for us, we are behind on our IRA contributions. We have $8000 left to deposit before year-end according to our goals. We have about half of that saved up and need to come up with the remaining $4000. We get an extra paycheck in December so it should work out okay in the end.

Other than that, our mutual funds and stock balances seem to have improved since we last looked in June. It was nice not to worry about the drops that took place over the summer (I didn't look once at our balances), and then to look a couple of days ago and to see that they were fine. That's why I don't like to get hung up on the day-to-day price fluctuations. It saves me time and anxiety.

We're still waiting for our open enrollment information. We've heard that premiums are going up quite a bit this year, so we will have to see what my husband's company presents to us. We are also still on a wait-and-see mode with my husband's job. We haven't heard any more about his office closing, but we know it's imminent. I think we'll hear more at the end of this year/beginning of next year. In the meantime, the longer we stay here, the harder it's going to be to leave. Our kids like their schools. Our mortgage is getting chipped away each month (we celebrate 10 years in our house next month!), and we have a lot of friends.

So that's where we are as we head into the last quarter of the year. We will work on our specific 2011 financial goals closer to the end of the year, but we don't expect them to change much from this year.