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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Storage Auction Tips Part 1 - What to bring with you

One of the ways I make extra money is to buy the contents of storage units at auctions and resell for a profit, usually via eBay, Craigslist, and garage sales.

After doing this several times I have picked up on a couple tips that will make your life a lot easier and limit the hassle involved. For this installment of storage auction tips, I'm going to list several things I recommend bringing with you to make the process easier.

1. Flashlight - Please don't bring a huge pistol-grip floodlight so you can look like the people in 'Storage Wars' You just don't need it. This is the equivalent of wearing sunglasses at a casual home poker game; it just makes you look like a douchebag. The vast majority of the time you can see what is in the unit just fine without using any kind of light at all, but sometimes it is helpful. It that case, any modern LED flashlight with decent output is fine. There is no reason it should be too big to fit in your pocket.

2. Padlocks - If you are lucky enough to win 1 or more units, you usually do not start immediately emptying it. You may have a couple more to auction off, or whatever. It is a good idea to have your own lock to put on there. Many times the facility will put theirs on there for you, but its easier and safest for you to use your own. Doesn't hurt to have a couple extra in your car.

3. Totes and boxes and garbage bags- Don't take it for granted that the items in the units will be bagged or boxed, as many times (maybe even MOST times) there is a lot of loose stuff. If you don't have boxes or containers to put it in you will waste a lot of time and spend a lot of energy moving every little item individually. And there will be trash. Sometimes LOTS of trash so make sure you have a few rolls of garbage bags handy.

4. Push Broom and dustpan - Speaking of trash, it is your responsibility to clean the units you purchase. Make this job easy on yourself by bringing a broom and dustpan.

5. Gloves - I recommend leather work gloves AND latex gloves. Work gloves for moving big stuff, and the rubber gloves for sorting through bags of random stuff or dirty clothes or whatever.

6. Water - It can get hot in those units while emptying them out. Stay hydrated. 

You may be able to come up with more things once you attend some, but these are some basic items you probably want to have with you.

-The Money Monk

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Ego Premium

As I have mentioned before, one of the ways I am working to increase my income is by reselling used goods. I get these from a variety of sources, like garage sales, auctions, the trash, whatever. But after doing this for a while one thing that you really start to notice is just how much value these items lose just by being used. I guess I should have said 'price' instead of 'value', and that is sort of my point. Used goods almost always have 100% of the utility or usefulness that they did when they were new, and yet they are significantly cheaper.

Most people sort of understand this on a basic level, but the extent of it isn't going to be clear until you see just how big of a difference there is. And I see it constantly because of my side hustle of reselling used goods. I am shocked almost every time I go into a store, at the prices of stuff. I'll be thinking "Those are HOW much?! I could barely GIVE those away!"

Almost every time the people pay extra for new goods they are doing so for one of 3 reasons:

Laziness, 'icky factor' or ego.

Laziness: People will pay 5.99 for a kitchen utensil that could easily be bought for a quarter at a garage sale or thrift store simply because they just want to buy it now and get it over with. I understand the sentiment, and like i have said before, if it was a one-time thing that extra 5 bucks wouldn't change a whole lot in the long run. But when you are doing that for every purchase, big and small, day in and day out, then the difference is huge. It can be the difference between poverty and financial freedom.

Icky Factor: I suspect this is mostly an ego issue, and wouldn't be a real issue if people were legitimately not worried about other;s opinions (which is the best trait to have). But some people are legitimately grossed out at the idea of using used things, like clothes, utensils, etc. What's stupid is that none of these people would think twice about eating at a restaurant, and using a fork that has been in 10,000 mouths, but they balk at buying a spatula at a garage sale because it has been used by ONE other family. This is just something that you will need to get over if you really want to be able to save big money. The premium for buying stupid plastic crap new is so huge it just doesn't make any sense.

Ego:  This is the big one right here. When you learn to get over worrying about appearing cheap or poor or whatever, the journey to financial independence is almost easy.  For many people it is the hardest aspect of living frugally, and one that many just simply can't overcome. But you HAVE to if you want success. The best solution I can offer you for this is to surround yourself with like-minded people. If you can't do that in real life, then visit forums like at Mr Money Mustache, or ERE. Then you can worry about trying to impress people with how LITTLE you spend. It's a totally difference mindset, and a much better one if you want to retire early!

So buy used if at all possible! Don't pay the ego premium!

-The Money Monk

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

4 Money Saving Tips for the Bathroom

1. Don't use it!

Don't worry, I'm not suggesting you don't GO to the bathroom, just that you try not to use YOUR bathroom. If you can, try to go at work, if you are still employed, or at the store. I know some people have hang-ups about using public bathrooms, but it saves, water, electricity, Toilet paper, soap/hand sanitizer, etc.

2. Use less 'product'

Most people use WAY too much bathroom products every time. Even the instructions on toothpaste says to use a pea-sized amount. I know the commercials show a huge dollop on the brush, but guess what? They get money when you have to go buy more, so they want to trick you into using it faster! The same goes for shampoo and stuff. many say to use a dime-sized amount. I recently read a thread at the MMM forums extolling the benefits of not using ANY soap or shampoo. Testimonials abounded of how, after an adjustment period, skin and hair was cleaner and healthier than ever.

While that may be a bit much for you, everyone not already concentrating on lowering their use of bathroom products should be able to easily cut their usage in half.

3. Try cold water

Water heaters are one of the biggest energy users in the modern home. If it isn't cold outside, try using cold water. Here in Florida a cold shower can actually be downright refreshing in the summer. Take a cold shower in the middle of the day instead of a hot shower in the morning.

This goes for hand washing and shaving too. You really don't need hot water to wash your hands, and you can try to forgo it with shaving as well.

4. Go in the backyard instead 

Ever hear of a compost pile? Ok, I'm joking about this one. Please don't shit in your backyard.

What are your tips for saving money in the bathroom?

-The Money Monk

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Thinking outside the box

At one point during college I took a basic psychology class, and during one of the rare moments that I was actually awake, the teacher explained the term 'functional fixedness'.  This is simply when a person is unable to envision a use for something beyond what it was expressly designed to do. Because of this people end up buying all sorts of stuff that basically doesn't accomplish anything that they can't already do with the things they have. The result is more money spent on useless crap which fills your house and separates you from financial independence.

The example the professor gave is somebody needing to tighten a flathead screw, and spending half an hour looking for a screwdriver, when they could have used any number of things to tighten the screw; a penny, a butter knife, other tools like a putty knife/chisel, an old credit card maybe, etc.

Now I recommend having a decent set of tools, but you get the point. How much money is unnecessarily spent to accomplish things that you can do with the items you already have?

Another example of this principle is when people buy things that are needlessly specific in their use Or feel like they have to use it for what it is labeled and nothing else. For instance, next time you are in the store, check the prices on antibacterial hand soap for washing your hands. Now check the prices of antibacterial dish soap. Hmmm. Who says you can't use dish soap to wash your hands?

This can be applied to any number of things. Why buy a dedicated potholder? all it is is a mitten, or many times even a square piece of cloth. Just use a small towel, washcloth, even a sock. Why buy a letter opener when you can use ANYTHING else. Do you really need a special scoop for your dog food, or can you use an empty vegetable can?

Each one of these examples may only represent a small savings, but consider that most people, instead of improvising, make purchases in these situations, day after day for their entire lives. That adds up to some serious coin.

-The Money Monk