Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Declutter Your Way Out of Debt

Since last few years ago, I started reducing paper clutter in my life. Finally, I have near-paperless home with the exception to few important documents.

Yet I have many small items that are lying around. Some of them were never used, while most of them were used once but way past their usability in my life. The items included a heart rate monitor sports watch (I thought I would run marathon), analog TV card, old GPS, and a network hub.

All was good and forgotten, neatly packed in an unmarked brown box. When I moved to the new apartment, I realized the box contributed nothing but one additional hassle. Either I had to throw it out, or better sell it, which I did, reducing my debt by $163.53.

This is how to declutter and cash out.

First of all, you need to be emotionally ready to part with my items. If it is not being used or will be used soon, it will soon contribute towards your back pain while organizing or moving next time.

After that, you have to accept that few things appreciate in value. Most likely, you won't get even half of what you paid. For example, I bought GPS for $349 one and half years ago, but just received $64 after its sale.

Third, "Stop Procrastinating". Schedule a time with yourself (better write it down). Get all products and list online. Sometime you may need a digital camera to take picture.

My recommendation for selling venues;

  • seller account is easiest to list. All you need is get Amazon seller account (need credit card and bank info to open), go to the product page of your item, click "Sell your item", describe honestly in a few words about condition. Price competitively. If an item didn't sell within a week, I lowered my prices. Amazon takes 6-15% commission and $0.99 fee. The listing is free. Amazon is best for selling standard items such as electronics with UPC.

  • is my second choice for selling items with UPC. EBay is best for selling small used parts or other small shippable items. The worst thing about eBay is that it charges for the listing fee regardless of sale. Also, listing unusual items would need a digital camera and you need PayPal account to process the payment. Since eBay charges listing fee (insertion fee) and PayPal also charges commission, you are paying commission twice when using eBay.

  • Craigslist is good for selling bulky items such as old TV and furniture locally. Last year I sold analog TV-VCR combo for $50. Make sure to post photo(s). If an item does not sell within a week, lower your prices.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Quicken Online & How Deep the Rabbit Hole Goes?

How much debt do you have and how much do you spend? Unless you are one of those super-excel-dudes who organize their finance on excel sheets and update it frequently, you wouldn't know how much you spend or how much debt you have. And if you are that super excel-dude, then you probably are in perfect financial position.

Before joining
Quicken Online, I believed that I had a vague idea about how much debt I have and how I much spend. My guesstimation was good at only underestimating both my debts and expenditures.

In Quicken Online, for free, you can import online records of all your scattered financial accounts (bank, credit cards) in few minutes. You can get all kind of reports on your spending, debt, and do some primitive budgeting. Granted, I am not buying a full version (sorry Quicken), it is still useful because it shows you all your finances in a nutshell. No
guesstimation and no underestimation of how deep the rabbit hole goes. MY rabbit hole goes - $ 27,619 deep. How deep does your hole go?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Wal-Mart Cushions and Lesson in Need vs. Want

I just moved to a new apartment. I don't have couch because I calculated cost of moving my old couch was at least $100 (truck rental, insurance etc). I don’t watch TV sitting on couch (I am bed TV person) and I rarely entertain people in my apartment. Instead, I have mattress and matching carpet (gift from my parents).

During my last visit to Wal-Mart, I saw these wonderful Mainstays accent cushion (see photo) which I think will go perfectly with my décor giving my living room eastern longue vibe. However they cost $40 for 4. Do I really need it? No. But, technically, I don’t even need my boxers. Do I want it? Yes. But, I want so many things in life such as fire proof safe for external hard drive (which was sitting in next shelve).

I realized that need vs. want thing didn’t make sense. I asked myself instead, how (and how often) is it going to enhance quality of my life? My answer was probably never because I don’t expect any visitors in my apartment or myself get any pleasure by admiring my own décor (it's a need for others) . I don't even know if they are decorative pillows or accent cushions. I decided not to buy them.

For few minutes, there was sense of regret and loss for not buying those wonderful cushion that match my color palette. I started to rationalize the possible purchase with I am already saving money trap. However, after half an hour, when I reflected back, I felt really good on my self control. The satisfaction I got from my self control was greater than any pleasure I would have got by admiring my living room’s décor.

So, the question, I need to ask is – How (and how often) this is going to enhance quality of my life? And as a reminder mental satisfaction is a need that many people ignore but we should to ask ourselves is it only thing that satisfies my mental need?


After a failed long term relationship, excessive weight gain, and many other issues, I got depressed. Even being a decently educated in finance, I still coped with my depression by spending money or by doing things that needed me to spend. Before breaking up, I was just getting my finance in order from my living expenses during college. My 
ex was careful with money, we rarely spent money on anything and we began sharing any cost, as our relationship grew older. After the breakup, I changed my wardrobe (because I did shed off few relationship babyfat) and also felt I needed it to “get out there”. I finally indulged in anything I wanted. I made excuse of dining pretty dates when in fact I was looking for friendship and also indulging my own foodie senses. I went out a lot too. Since I lived in downtown Washington DC it was not limited to just once a week but multiple times a week. During that time, I spent a lot, tried new things, met lot of people and made some good friends. But did I really need to spend and get myself into 27,619 dollars in debt to bounce back and get my life together?

What I want to do in this blog is share my mini personal experiment to do many things that I want, still enjoy my life and keep meaningful friendship while still saving money to be without debt.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

What is debt?

Basically, debt is someone else's (usually faceless bank) claim to my future* with lot of extra strings attached.

*Here I said future not future earnings because having debt incapacitates us on making any changes. Such as, "oh! I can't quit my miserable job and go back to school because I have my car payments to make".