Tuesday, May 29, 2012

“Towns Outlawing Extreme Garage Sales”: Why This Family is Already Handcuffed

A recent article on MSN.com noted that in some areas of the country, towns are seeing extreme garage sales; events that not everyone is happy about. The article notes some residents feel that these sales are getting out of hand, some turning into auto sales with “20 cars parked on the lawn” or rows of washers, dryers, and other appliances lined up for purchase.

One town council president mentioned in the article would like to limit the number of sales residents can have to four per year and place a $5 fee on each sale. I don’t think his standards are necessarily unreasonable, especially with what our family has to go through in an effort to hold our garage sales.

From the two garage sales that we typically have each year, we usually make anywhere from $400 to $600, which can make for a nice little addition to income. But planning, preparing and holding garage sales can be a lot of hard work, and municipal restrictions came make them even more difficult to carry out successfully.

Here are some of the things that we have to deal with and how we attempt to overcome their limiting effects on our garage sales.

The municipality in which we hold our garage sales requires a permit. While the permit itself is free, and I have a feeling that many sale holders probably don’t get them, we tend to err on the side of safety.

This way, should local authorities arrive (they are often out on Fridays and Saturdays checking for illegally placed garage sale signs), we’re legit in our permitting to hold the sale and won’t be shut down for any reason, negating all our hard work and preparations. While it might be a pain to drive over and pick a permit up, the time spent is worth it compared to chancing having our sale shut down.

Speaking of signs, our municipality is VERY strict regarding where garage sale signs can and can’t be placed. Putting signs on telephone poles, street signs or even in portions of our own yard that are considered municipal areas (those yard areas between the sidewalk and the street) is strictly prohibited. We’ve found from experience that putting signs in such areas will result in them being taken down by local authorities, or having to move them ourselves by police order (yes, they have made us do so on several occasions).

Garage Sale Limits
Each property in our municipality is restricted to two garage sales per calendar year. This is somewhat limiting since we just never know what the weather is going to do or what sort of luck we’re going to have with attendance.

How we try to Make up for these Limitations
While our location is fairly strict in their garage sale limitations, over the years, we’ve found ways to make up for these rules.

Take for example the sign issues. While our options are limited, we still put signs up in the yard in which we are having the sale to draw the attention of passers-by, and we place a newspaper advertisement in the local paper for about $30, which helps make up for our lack of signage as well.

While two garage sales is typically enough for our family, we have paired with other family members and friends in the past to utilize their garage sales to get rid of our stuff and make a little cash in the process without having to hold a sale of our own.

And finally, when it comes to those sales that just don’t turn out to be as profitable as we’d hoped, and we don’t have the ability to hold a third sale or pair up with neighbors, we tend to take certain leftovers to area resale shops to get rid of them and add to our sale profits, or take them to local charities so that we can get the charitable tax deduction.

Tahmincioglu, Eve. Life Inc. “Towns outlawing extreme garage sales” April 17, 2012. http://lifeinc.today.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/04/17/11230133-towns-outlawing-extreme-garage-sales?lite

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Top Picks for This Year’s Indianapolis 500 Winner

With new cars, new engines, and new faces at the track this year, it’s shaping up to be a tight field for the 96th running of the Indianapolis 500.

Having kept a live internet feed of 500 practice coverage on the background of my computer as I worked this past week, plus watching multiple hours of live Pole and Bump Day qualifying coverage this past weekend, I think I’m ready to make my picks for Sunday’s race.

Although I honestly feel that there are probably a good 25 realistic possibilities for the Indy 500 winner this year, here are my personal top five.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Alternative Forms of Currency I’m Stockpiling in the Event of a Disaster

With 2012 upon us and so much focus being put on the Mayan calendar, predictions of the apocalypse, and mega-disasters in general, there has been greater attention on emergency planning lately. While I don’t think the Mayans have the date of our demise pinpointed, I do think that the idea of emergency planning as a whole, for any number of events, is a good idea.

Sometimes I find it difficult to think outside the box when it comes to various long-lasting emergency scenarios since I’ve never actually experienced one, and it can be hard to plan for every eventuality. However, in an emergency situation in which societal norms are breaking down -- including the worth of our currency and how we purchase things -- I think it’s a good idea to consider what other items could be used as forms of currency.

Food and Water
Food and water always top my list of alternative forms of currency in the event of an emergency. Long-term or short, without food and water during an emergency situation, our family would be up a creek without a paddle. Therefore, we tend to retain extra such items -- often more than we would easily use in a month or two -- in the event that we might have to utilize such supplies for bartering.
With food and water available to exchange as currency, we could get just about everything else on this list, but might not be able to reverse the situation, trying to trade something like alcohol, fuel or medical supplies for food and water.

Whether it’s gasoline, diesel fuel, propane for heating and cooking, or whatever, having some extra fuel on hand when it comes to our emergency supplies could really come in handy.
While we tend not to go overboard in this area since we have no real expectations of escaping the Chicagoland area during a disaster, and therefore aren’t really in need of extra gasoline should a real emergency event take place, choosing instead to hunker down and hopefully wait things out. We do however keep a supply of extra camping sized propane tanks for our camp cook stove should we lose our supply of utility provided natural cooking gas. This way we still have the ability to boil water, cook, and even trade fuel should we need to barter for other supplies.

Medical Supplies
In an emergency situation, since my wife is a type I diabetic, insulin would be more important to us than gold. I ensure that my wife keeps a 4-6 month supply of diabetic supplies and insulin on hand at all times just in case. While we wouldn’t be bartering such items away in an emergency situation, we would be exchanging other forms of currency for such supplies, so in turn; these items could act as a form of currency for others.

You don’t have to be a drinker to keep a little alcohol on hand for bartering should an extended emergency hit. While we don’t stockpile cases of alcohol or anything like that, having a couple bottles on hand could prove useful during a long-term emergency.

Not only does alcohol have a great shelf-life, but it in an emergency situation, it could possibly be used to treat wounds, traded for other supplies, used as a pain killer, and even used as a weapon (with higher proof, flammable alcohols possibly being made into Molotov cocktail type bombs).

Precious Metals
I’ve long espoused having some silver coins on hand in the event of an emergency, not only to fight inflation, but to use as currency. While dollar bills and regular pocket change might be worthless in certain emergency situations, true silver coinage or silver bars could be of use for buying food and supplies. Its small size also makes it easy to hide, store and carry.

Weapons and Ammo
During a real emergency, all the guns in the world aren’t going to do much good without ammunition, and vice versa. Therefore, in an environment in which roaming street gangs are taking what they want, weapons and ammunition could become a new form of currency.

While I’m no gun nut, I do keep a long-range rifle and extra rounds of ammunition on hand just in case. While I hope never to have to fire a shot to defend my home or family, having extra ammunition on hand to trade for other supplies could help us outlast any sort of long-term emergency scenario.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Metal Prices are Down: Why I Prefer Buying Silver Over Gold

I own a little of both silver and gold -- not in the paper form mind you, but in its actual physical form. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a collection worth thousands of dollars or anything like that, but it’s a nice little hedge against currency devaluation and inflation. Most of my precious metal comes in the form of a small collection of silver coins and ounce bars that I built as a child and that I’ve added to over the years.

The price of silver and gold may have been down lately (under $28 and $1580 an ounce respectively at the writing of this article), but with their drop in price, my interest has risen, and I’ve been keeping an eye out for buying opportunities. I have a preference of silver in my purchases though, and here are some of the reasons why I prefer buying silver more than gold.

Buying Ability
Many people can’t afford to just run out and buy an ounce of gold at $1,500 or $1,600, or even if they can, it might be a slightly higher investment than they prefer to make all at once. I find that this is the case in my situation. I’m much more comfortable being able to go out and buy an ounce of silver for $30 or $35, which to me is a much more reasonable buy-in amount for the common person such as myself.
Add to this the fact that I can find a variety of silver and silver coin buying options at spots like antique stores, coin shops, pawn shops, garage sales, and resale shops, and it makes my buying opportunities much broader.

Silver Owning Options
I tend to find a variety of silver buying options. From silverware, bowls, jewelry, and candle sticks, to tea service sets, coins, dishware, and more, silver is a common buying option. However, finding such options isn’t as common with gold. I’m not typically going to find a solid gold candlestick or snuff box at a garage sale -- gold plated, maybe -- but such items aren’t as common at my sort of buying locations as silver pieces are. Therefore, I tend to look to buffer my silver coin collection through the types of decorative pieces I mentioned that are not only decorative and affordable, but might be functional and could also serve for their silver melt value if needed.

Peace of Mind
I’m not sure about you, but having a bunch of gold lying around the house wouldn’t really put me at ease. Of course that’s what safety deposit boxes are for, but even then, I’m not sure I’d want multiple thousands of dollars wrapped up in just a few ounces of metal. Sure, I know that over time, gold retains its value reasonably well and can act as a form of hard currency that outlives paper currencies; however, for some reason, I just feel more comfortable with owning silver than gold. Plus, were it necessary to convert the metal, I’d feel more comfortable walking into a place of business sporting a $30 silver coin than a $1,600 gold one, and I wouldn’t be as worried about getting mugged in the process.

Ease of Conversion
Speaking of conversion, in a situation where commodities might suddenly be necessary to pay for goods and services, it would be much easier to walk into a store and buy a loaf of bread using a pre-1964 90% silver dime worth $3 than it would a gold coin that’s worth $1,000. Unless I’m planning on buying a wagonload of supplies, the silver coin conversion option seems much simpler to me. There might also be a broader market for exchanging smaller value silver coins than gold versions which a far smaller portion of the general public may be able to afford or be able to produce change for.


The author is not a licensed financial or commodities professional. The information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal or financial advice. Any action taken by the reader due to the information provided in this article is solely at the reader’s discretion.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Creating a Moving Checklist in 5 Easy Steps

The process of moving isn’t something many of us look forward to. While the relocating to a new area aspect of moving might have us somewhat excited, I haven’t met many people who can admit they look forward to all the rest that comes along with having to move.

From decluttering, closing accounts, doing address changes, packing, and making the trip, to unpacking, reestablishing roots in a new area, and getting all settled into a new home, there are plenty of stressful activities that can come along with a move. Therefore, using a moving checklist can help to stay on track.

I’ve used a moving checklist during our last several moves, and here is how I create it in five easy steps.

Step #1 – Create an Address Change Section
Typically, my first step in preparing to relocate is making a list of all those people and organizations with which we need to change our address. Sure, completing an address change form with the U.S. Postal Service is certainly a part of this first step, but I still like to ensure that we change as many addresses directly as we can think of.

Utilities, magazines, friends and family, business associates, employers, health providers, insurers, and similar contacts usually comprise the address change section of our moving checklist.

Step #2 – Figure Moving Costs
This step may be a little harder to complete since it can be difficult to predict all of -- or predict accurately -- the costs involved in relocating. Still, I find that it’s not a bad idea to at least make an attempt to do so in an effort to get an idea for what sort of expenses we’ll be facing during our move.
My moving cost figures typically entail putting numbers to items such as fuel, tolls, hotel stays, supplies, food, and professional mover estimates. I do my best to estimate as close to expected costs as possible, then once the move has taken place, I replace these estimates with exact totals.

For example, here are figures from our move out to Washington state last summer:

• Mover costs -- $300 (our friend is a mover and helped us move much of our stuff into temporary storage)

• Gas – $417.79

• Hotel accommodations – $162.74

• Food – $25.00

• Tolls – $3.25

Step #3 – Determine Travel Times
The time involved in moving can be extensive. There’s all the prep work involved in packing, ending utility service, moving, unpacking, starting new utility service, etc. It can be difficult to put timeframes with all these associated parts of the moving process, but when moving long distances, I tend to like to have an idea of how long the actual trip involved to get there is going to take.

In our case, moving from Chicago to Washington involved a lengthy trip. Having an idea of not only the length of the trip, but how long that trip was going to take, helped me better estimate the costs involved (gas, food, accommodations, etc.).

Therefore, I determined that the trip would be 2000 miles and divided that into an average of 60 miles per hour to get an hourly timeframe. I planned for two nights in a hotel at $150 a night, but since we made better time than expected, we only stayed one night, cutting our estimated expenditures in this area by nearly 50 percent.

Step #4 – Create an Inventory
In our situation, I used an inventory list to help us determine what would be going into storage, what would be going to family members, and what would be coming with us on our trip. I find that when moving, so many things can be going on that it’s easy to forget a few items here and there. I didn’t want items that were supposed to be coming with us to instead be put into storage, or vice versa.

Therefore, I made an inventory of important furniture, paperwork, toys (for our son), and other items with notations of “Take”, “Store”, or “Family” to help us deal with where things needed to be going or ending up.

Step #5 – The “To-do” List
Finally, there is the “to-do” portion of our moving checklist. This comprises a list of items to handle once we arrive at our location. Typically there are things like, opening new bank accounts, activating utilities, getting new drivers licenses, changing insurance (both car and health), finding new healthcare providers, etc.

Having this list compiled and ready to go, helps us stay on track when we arrive at our destination during a time that can be more than a little hectic.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Money Things I do that Drive My Wife Nuts

As in any good relationship, both my wife and I of course have a few things that drive each other crazy.  Being someone who writes about personal finance, I have a few things that I’ve discovered about my wife that drive me nuts when it comes to her handling of money.  However, in an effort at full disclosure, I have a few items that drive her nuts as well. 

While we’ve learned to live, and in some ways love our various financial habits, here are a few of mine that particularly get under my wife’s skin.

I track every penny I spend.  While I don’t force this same sort of exactitude upon my wife, I know that she still thinks I carry it a bit too far.  However, she’s willing to let this part of our financial life go since she realizes that it not only helps us form better spending policies and look for ways to cut costs, but it also assists me in coming up with new subject matter for my personal finance writing.

Swap Fun for Finances
While this habit of mine has saved us a lot of money over the years, it has also cost us some fun in the process.  I often tend to overanalyze how costs will add up from partaking in certain activities rather than just going with the flow, which is what my wife is more apt to do.  While this tends to cut down our entertainment and miscellaneous costs, at times it also cuts down on our enjoyment of life and living.

To better balance this aspect of our financial lives, we do several things.  First off, we look for activities that we not only enjoy, but are cost effective as well, like going to the park, canoeing, camping, taking our son to the library, going out to eat at affordable family dining venues, and similar items.  And since we are doing activities together, we typically share the cost with one another, which allows us to double our spending power, or in essence, cut the cost of such fun in half so that one person isn’t carrying the entire weight of our entertainment expenditures.

Watch and Worry
Largely due to my knowledge regarding personal finances, I likely tend to worry more about them than the average person might.  You may have heard the phrase, “Ignorance is bliss.”

In some cases, I wish this was the case in our situation, and I’m sure my wife feels the same way sometimes.  While she is happy that I try my best to safeguard our personal and financial information, I sometimes take it to the extreme and spend too much time and effort worrying about the possibilities and repercussions of certain personal financial situations.  While this helps us better protect our finances through doing things like tracking expenses, watching account balances, changing passwords, and similar activities, my wife’s ability to maintain a more even keel about such issues helps balance my overprotective attitude.  

Deal in Cash
Personally, I love dealing in cash.  I find it to be reassuring and it doesn’t leave a paper or electronic trail of account or credit card numbers that can be hacked into or stolen by those without the best of intentions.

My wife is more of a credit card kind of girl and finds my love of cash somewhat silly.  However, we balance each other well in that you really almost have to have a credit (or at least a debit) card these days for certain transactions, yet by using cash in many situations in which credit card usage isn’t necessary, we decrease the chance of our card information being compromised.

Costing us Money to Save Money
I come from a family that’s great at saving money, but whose efforts sometimes lead to situations in which we end up spending $1 to save 20 cents.  Such situations remind me of my grandfather driving an extra 10 miles out of his way to save two cents a gallon on gas. 

Thankfully, self-awareness and my wife pointing out such ridiculous behavior to me over the years, has awakened me to this fact.  I’ve therefore become better at being able to look outside the immediate near-term savings to consider long-term affects and cost implications of saving $1 today only to have it cost me $10 tomorrow.