My new found hobby is selling on eBay

Cute but I never used it.
My first sale

It all started when I was decluttering my closet and realized that I have too many pair of shoes. I accumulated quite a bit since college and I didn’t even use most of them. It took a while to accept the fact that my feet cannot handle heels or narrow shoes. I experimented for a while and brought some minimalist shoes. Finally after trial and error, I found one brand that have a wide toe box and have a very minimal support with Merrell. So in 2015, I started selling some shoes on eBay. It’s a fun hobby and it makes decluttering a lot easier because I know that I am getting some money back. After over a year and shipping at least a dozen pair of shoes, here are some things that I learned and the process along the way.

1. Signing Up

Signing up is straight forward. You need an e-mail address and complete your profile. Your address will estimate the shipping cost, so make sure that this is accurate. During sign up you will get a user id. You can use this ID as a marketing tool. I see some sellers that specializes on certain products and have their names associated with it.

2. Getting Paid

PayPal is the fastest way to get paid and chances are you already have an account. As a seller, I only accept PayPal.

3. Inventory

Legos - these are actually consider collectibles now
Legos – these are actually consider collectibles now

Start by going through your house. This hobby all started out while I was decluttering my closet. Aside from your closet, look around your house. I listed my old legos, nintendo, game boy, and business clothes – all of them just collecting dust. Now, my grandmother even asked me if I can sell her shoes on eBay. This month alone, I sold 4 of her shoes.

4. Listing the item

Once you create a draft, eBay will ask you for a title. Include as much detail as you can. Brand, size, gender, color. eBay has some features that will help you add more details. Title is important because search is index here.  You will also be able to add a detail description. I tend to include some personal anecdotes, and reasons for selling it. Being honest is key here. If the product has some flaws, put it here and note it in the photo. For clothes, include the detail measurement. Don’t rely on the brand size. Get a measuring tape and include all the details. This is also where you note if you are accepting returns

Tip: To save time, I create a draft in my computer all at once, then add a photo later using my iPhone. 

5. Pricing

Be reasonable with the price. Forget the original price you paid for it. I know it can be hard, but you have to be realistic. Look for a comparable sale. I tend to lower my price for at least 10%. I like the auction style and I tend to not have a reserve price. Once, I sold 3 pair of bras for .99 and someone bought it for $10.  

6. Photos

This used to take some time, but eBay definitely improved its sellers portal. It’s pretty easy to add photos now using your phone from the app.  A pro will probably used a mannequin to photograph clothes. Don’t worry if you don’t have one, I used my white wall and used a nice hanger. All my clothes are also ironed so it still looks nice in the photo. For shoes, I actually received a request to post a photo with my feet on it, so I started adding it. 

7. End on a Sunday night

I start and end on a Sunday Night. I read that people tend to shop more on Sunday night. This also helps me since I can send the product the next day.

8. Shipping – pricing it right

I don’t include shipping in the price. This is actually hard since eBay will calculate the cost base on my location and the buyers location. I never had an issue yet. Once I did a free shipping and I barely made anything after eBay and PayPal Fees. Once you sold an item it is important to ship it fast. 

Tip: Aside from changing the status to ship, make sure to add the tracking number and send the seller a note. It makes it more personal that way. 

9. Provide feedback to the buyer.

I didn’t realize that this is important until I received some feedbacks from my buyers. Once I have some feedbacks, I saw activities of my listing grew.

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Stock market and my way of investing

I recently read an article stating that majority of millennials (under age 30) don’t invest on stock market. In fact the survey suggested that only 26% own stocks. The market rallied the past 6 years and most millennials missed this opportunity.

Reading through the article, 53% of survey partcipants don’t invest because of lack of funds. I was not surprised there, given that our generation suffered from the financial crisis and had a hard time getting employment. What surprised me the most is the lack of knowledge about stock, with 23% citing this as a reason for not investing. Given that we are generation who grew up with information on our hands, I expect that millennials will have a way to know this. I can understand that millennials don’t trust the market or don’t want to take the risk. This is my reason for not investing and here’s how I overcome it.

Keeping it simple and calculate the risk you can take

My advice to my fellow millennials is to keep it simple. Unless you’re really serious with investing, there is no need to know about derivatives, stock options or other financial products.

If you’re employed, start with a tax deductible investments. This will limit the amount of research you need to do and hopefully, signing up is easy. Here’s how I allocate my money.

401K – I started investing through my company’s 401K. This is probably the easiest and most simple way to invest if your employer offer this. Investments can be limited. I started by looking at the cheapest ETFs and allocate my contributions evenly. I think of this investment as “money I never had” — hence lessening the perception of the risk. After a year, I saw my investment grew, I started getting excited which lead me to maxing out my contribution the following years.

Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) – After maxing out my 401K, I started contributing to an IRA. There are two types of IRA, traditional and roth. Traditional IRAs are tax deductible while roth IRAs are not. The amount of deductions for traditional IRAs phases out depending on your income. I started out with traditional IRA and now contribute to Roth. I do pick stocks on my Roth IRA. I take more risk on my Roth IRA and consider this as my emergency fund. The principal is not taxed if I need to withdraw it. If your company don’t offer 401K, you can still contribute to an IRA. Mad Fientist wrote a really good article, comparing Roth and Traditional IRA. I have my Roth IRA through Fidelity. I like that I can pick my own stocks.

Health Savings Account (HSA) – Another way to invest is through your HSA, if your company offers high deductible health plan. Individual contribution max out to 3,350 in 2016 tax year and is tax deductible.

Legos
Legos – investment?

Taking a bit more risk

Now, after maxing out your retirement account and you are more comfortable with investing, you can even try investing using an after tax dollar. I still keep it simple and here’s how I invest.

ETFs – After maxing out on tax deductible investments, I started buying ETFs. I chose Vanguard ETFs since the expense ratio is the lowest and it’s free to trade if you have a Vanguard account. I obviously have a Vanguard account. I chose 4 ETFs  and I contribute every month and buy it at market rate. I buy it every second Tuesday of the month. The process of investing every second Tuesday of the month started when I was in college. I signed up for Sharebuilder (now own by Capital One 360) and it cost $2 per trade if you trade every second Tuesday of the month. My initial investment was Apple, IBM and Costco. There was no minimum amount to invest at the time. I no longer have a Sharebuilder account but I continued with this process. I don’t even try to beat the market. I took the timing out of the equation, hold to my investments and make sure that it is diversified.

Choose a product you believe in and invest in the company – This only applies if you can handle the risk. I don’t read the annual statements but looked at the product. Some of the stocks I owned that performed well: Apple, Costco, FB and Amazon. I also lost quite a bit on Real 3D. I really thought that 3D was cool after watching Avatar, but I have to sell this at lost. Sometimes, instead of buying ETFs, I replaced it with stocks and invest on it for that Tuesday.

If you really don’t want to invest on stock, at least open a CD or a high percentage savings account. I like Capital One 360. But seriously, try out investing on stocks through retirement accounts. Think of tax deductions as gains  right away.

 

 

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Monthly Spending – July 2016

Spending is finally going back to normal with all the wedding detail behind us. Marriage life, so far is a bliss.

I’m starting to see some effects of tracking my expenses line by line – instead of looking at the the total. For example, since the man and I can carpool to work and I can walk/take the bus back home, I don’t drive to work anymore and no longer have to pay for parking. I’ve been walking quite a bit now, at least 2.5 miles every weekday and it’s been part of my routine. The biggest advantage of this is actually not the savings, but the fact that I can incorporate exercise on  my daily routine.

I also made a trek to ikea this month. It’s quite a drive, so I combined a visit to my parents and a visit to ikea. My sister also wants to go and we made a day out of it. I enjoy the design in the showroom, though I’m not really a fan of their products. I returned some wedding items that were not used and got a frame, which sadly need to be return.

This month, has definitely been interesting. Despite of our trip to costco twice, the last one being July 31st, I still hit my spending goal. I didn’t really cut on anything. I even went out and forgot my lunch twice this month.

 

DESCRIPTION AMOUNT WHAT ARE THESE?
Mortgage & Rent 1800 Property tax increased this year
Groceries 326.72
Student Loan 200
Gifts & Donations 98.03
Restaurants 87.14 Ate out twice this month
Home Supplies 70.89 toiletries
Internet 66.05
Wedding Expenses 34 copy of marriage license and fee for preowned wedding dress
Gas & Fuel 31.36
Tolls 30 Added more on tolls
Furnishings 21.89 ikea trip which will need to be returned
Personal Care 12.74 hmm.. can't remember
Rental Car & Taxi 13.29 I tried a new car sharing service for fun
Snacks 0.69 Chocolate bar

 

 

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You’re past does not dictate your future

I recently visited my family. I don’t live far, so there’s really no excuse for me to not see them. Recently though, I find myself getting more and more distant. For some reason, every time I called, there’s always family issue, most of them financially. The problem just seems to pour in and I can only do so much.

Thoughts cloud my mind during my drive back. Questions like how I got out and got so lucky to be financially stable rushed in. Is it really just luck or is this something that everyone can achieve? Is it normal to be in debt and my position which seems normal to me is so unconventional?

You’re past does not dictate your future, unless you let it.

Determination is a big factor that comes to mind when I think about my ways of getting out of poverty. I didn’t grew up in a rich community and I attended the worst public school in the city, so odds are really not on my side. But I was determined. In high school, I took all AP classes (2 of them), and took some classes in the community college. I didn’t listen to teachers or counselors who told me to enroll in a community college before applying to university. Not that there’s anything wrong with the community college – they are actually more realistic with their advice, but I chose to dream big.

I seek help, knowledge and advice – and I (try) listen to it. When I was in college, I look for every help that I can get, be it financial aid, tutoring and business school application assistance. I realize that I’m not as smart as I thought and whatever I learned in high school did not prepare me for college, so I look for help. I studied until I am at par with my classmates.

I studied abroad and realized that other first world countries are living on small houses, biking to school and making their own food… and they are happy! It took me back to my roots, growing up in a third world country, I dreamed of bigger house, cars, clothes and shoes because I thought that it is how people should live. I was wrong and I learned that by living abroad.

My first employer out of college created a program for first generation college grad with intensive leadership training and I participated on it. This lead to promotions and more career opportunities in the future which then lead to higher earnings.

I have a loving family who instills the importance of education and hard work. I don’t think I can be where I am right now without their support. Granted, my views changed, in college and now, but my parents never once told me that I can’t achieve my dreams — regardless of it being unrealistic (at the time), or impractical. I grew up with my parents telling me that I can be whatever I want to be.

I tell my siblings that if I can do it, so can they. In fact, anyone can… learn from your past and used that experience to guide your shape the future that you want.

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My thoughts on lending money to family or friends

My recent conversation with a very good friend made me realize that I have a very different view on lending money to family or friends. I don’t believe in it.

I’ve been on a couple of situations where a family member asked for a loan. The first one was from an uncle that I haven’t seen for years. I was really surprised when that happened. My grandma approached me and asked if I can  loan my uncle some money. I flat out said no. I didn’t put thoughts to it. I was even annoyed since I haven’t seen my uncle for years. I’m not closed to him. I was a recent graduate, saving to buy a place. I’m not comfortable parting from my hard earned money. To this day, I am really glad that I stick to that decision. It also set the tone to my family.

The second time was a bit more difficult. I am pretty comfortable financially. My brother needed a car and my father is helping him find one. They found one and I got a phone call from my father asking if I can put a downpayment. Hmmm… this is different. This is for my brother. I want to help out, but I don’t necessarily want to give a loan. So I ask for more information about the purchase. He wants to buy a sports car. I know he needed a car, but heck he doesn’t need that kind of car! I told my father no, I can’t lend the money. I didn’t give any reason. I can tell that he was surprised. That evening I searched craigslist for a reliable car and I send him the details.. well he decided that he doesn’t want my “taste”. Eventually, my father co-sign a car loan with no downpayment.

Looking back, I know I made the right decision. My sister lend my brother some money and I can tell that it’s so awkward when he brag about his business, making some dough… and he can’t even re-pay my sister. More so, when he needed some money, he will “borrow” from my sister. My sister then eventually stopped. Lessons were learned the hard way.

I try to think that I’m generous when it comes to my family. I’ve been very lucky with my situation and I owe them that. Instead of lending money, I actually just give it. I can tell if my parents are on a difficult situation — they don’t need to ask for my help, it’s always there. But I also don’t like to enable a purchase decision that I know is not good in the long run financially.

I will probably assess every situation differently, but I know that I’ll be more comfortable not loaning the money than asking for it back.

 

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Monthly Spending – June 2016

June, June, June.. I will never forget you. This is the month I got married and went to Dublin and Greece with the man. I was basically out for most of the month traveling after the wedding. Before that my in-laws were in town to helped us prepare for the big day. I was surprised to see that my spending was actually lower even with the travel expenses.

Most people will be surprised that I don’t have a budget. I never did. I just don’t spend on things that will not make me happy to begin with. I make sure to maximize the utility of every dollar and for it to serve me well. I’m not against budgeting. In fact I even told my parents that they should try it out since they can’t seem to control their spending. My method started out of necessity, when I don’t even have any money to begin with and I have very little to spend. It just rubbed on for years, and now it is just second nature to me.

What I do is track my spending. In the last few years, when I looked at my annual expenses, I looked at the top 5 and asked myself if it’s worth it. This year, I’m tracking every line item through mint as it goes and monthly through here. My hope is to keep on finding ways to optimize my spending.

DESCRIPTION AMOUNT WHAT ARE THESE?
Wedding Expenses 1779.2 Mostly honeymoon expenses, hair and makeup and flowers
Mortgage 1600 High, but worth it.
Shopping -83.16 I canceled my prime membership. I think it is worth it
Student Loan 200 My parents took some student loan for me and I offered to pay it for them. I could pay this right up front, if I want to.
Utilities 196.30 WSG. Next project is to figure out how to decrease this.
Internet + landline 66.05 This is the cheapest I can get from Comcast
Restaurants 57.95 Take out when we had visitors
Mobile Phone 33.88 Monthly phone. I have unlimited data and text and 100 minutes from T-mobile
Groceries 7.11 Unusually low. Since we know that we will be out, we ate what we had here, and in-laws took care most of it.
Incidentals 2.73 Unnecessary expense. I forgot my contacts container and have to buy one from the airport (brain fart!)
TOTAL 3860.06
without wedding expense 2080.86 This is extremely low and I don't expect it next month

 

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My DIY Wedding Favors for less than $1

Wedding favors, though not mandatory are great way to thank your guests. According to wedding stats, the average cost of a wedding favor is $251. For 100 guests, that is an additional $2.50 per guest.

Weddings are expensive and these little things do add up. That said, I remembered the favors from the previous weddings and I remembered liking if it is something edible. I also know that this is an easy DIY project, so I decided to do it.

I want something edible, something sweet and something that I really liked with minimal cost. After looking through some options, I decided to give out some chocolate covered raisins and personalized it in a small container. I bought 5 3lbs chocolate covered raisins from Costco for  $9.99 each and a simple container from Amazon for $26.99. My mom helped us and added a logo on top that was printed by my sister. A couple of days before the wedding, we put the raisins in the container. Total cost for me is $76.94.

I heard from my guests that they loved it! It’s simple but I’m glad that I didn’t forego it.

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Travel cheap by extending a business trip

I had an opportunity to travel for work for a week and decided to extend it and travel personally. Combining business and pleasure is the cheapest way to travel. If you have an opportunity go for it! I travel quite a bit and don’t mind if it’s my biggest expense for the year. Since I know that this hobby can be expensive, I try to find ways to travel cheap. Here’s one example.

I spent 5 days in Lisbon and it cost me 337.93 USD

Obviously, the biggest saving is the cost of the flight. I could have save even further by staying in the same country where I was doing business, but I’m craving for some sun. I literally went on a map and pointed south and there it is Lisbon. I searched for a one way flight and found one that cost 78.32 at Ryan Air.

Since I am traveling off peak, prices for hotel is pretty affordable. I was traveling alone and decided to stay in a hostel for a cheaper alternative. For 4 nights, it cost me 55.34 USD. I stayed in a dorm room but since it is off peak, I was the only one in the room for 3 nights. This cost includes a modest breakfast and internet access.

Lisbon is such a wonderful place and exceeded all my expectations! There is so much history in the city. My favorite part is the narrow streets that seems like a maze. I let myself get lost in the city and found neighbors actually talking to each other through the windows!

Narrow Streets

I also saw Fado. For those visiting Lisbon, this is a must see. This is such an experience that I will never forget. Locals sing about anything to express their emotion. It’s in Portuguese, but you don’t need to understand the language to be amaze. It cost me 47.24 USD with dinner.

Fado

I also went to Sintra for a day. I took the train from Lisbon and signed up for a hop on – hop off bus. The day trip was not part of my plan, but was highly recommended by the hostel. It didn’t disappoint. I reached the westernmost point of the continental Europe.

Aqui, onde a terra se acaba e o mar começa...[Here, where the land ends and the sea begins...
Aqui, onde a terra se acaba e o mar começa…[Here, where the land ends and the sea begins…
The rest of 157.03 USD was spent on tours, food, transportation and kitchen magnet for my souvenir.

Definitely money well spent!

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Monthly Spending – May 2016

Holy cow, I spent a lot! May is typically a big month for my spending even in the past. This is usually the month where I will book a trip or go on a trip. Birthdays are also celebrated this month. That said, I have a couple of things going on this year with the wedding and electronic purchase. I’m hoping that this is really just a one time expense.

My goal is financial independence. This doesn’t necessarily mean early retirement, but more sense of fulfillment. I like what I do now, but I don’t like the feeling of being tied to it. My first step is to determine my spending. In my opinion (and only mine), I already live a pretty frugal life. I do have one big luxury which is the biggest line item you can see below.

So folks, here it is. For those that are willing to comment and provide some insights, I’m all ears.

Description Amount What are these?
Mortgage & Rent 1600 This is my biggest luxury. It took more than a year until I found the house. It's expensive, I know.
Electronics & Software 1094.9 A replacement for my 9 year old macbook
Wedding Expenses 831.12 Aaahh .. wedding. A family drama took place and I offered to flew my brother out in here for the wedding. This is basically the cost of the plane tickets, few things for my flowers and bachelorette dinner and drinks
Veterinary 683 Remember that emergency vet clinic?
Student Loan 200 My parents took some student loan for me and I offered to pay it for them. I could pay this right up front, if I want to.
Groceries 138.18 Very low... there's a reason for this. My partner paid our costco trip for this month.
Shopping 112.94 Prime membership got renewed and the cost of watch bands and batteries for my wrist watch (going strong after 15 years!)
Clothing 106.08 These are all bras! I went to Nordstrom and got re-sized and found out that I've been wearing the wrong size all these years. I got my corset and bra, but later return and got it from Amazon. I then got 3 more from Nordstrom Rack. Considering I got 4, this isn't bad.
Entertainment 82.08 blog cost - this is actually a 3 year hosting fees.
Parking 80 Monthly parking at work
Internet 66.05 Internet + phone. It is cheaper to get the bundle than just the internet... insane!
Restaurants 55.78 Brunch and birthday dinner
Gas & Fuel 38.6 Not bad, but can be better
Mobile Phone 33.88 Monthly phone. I have unlimited data and text and 100 minutes from T-mobile
Doctor 21.62 Some test that was billed after my annual exam.
Alcohol & Bars 16.47 Wines from Trader Joes. A monthly routine for me.
Gift 3.5 My gift to my partner, a tall boy beer, with the take out mexican food 🙂
Snacks 3.48 My cravings for chocolate needs to stop.
TOTAL 5167.68
Without wedding expense 4336.56

 

 

Let’s see how I can optimize it this year. My goal is to reach about $3000 on average (including mortgage).

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My 9 year old macbook

I recently purchase a macbook air. Prior to this, my personal laptop is a Macbook, circa 2007, running an OS X. I call her snow white and this post is about her.

Can you tell she's 9 years old?
Can you tell she’s 9 years old?

Snow white is my very first purchase from my first paycheck after college. I have a work laptop but decided to keep a personal one because I thought that it will help me keep my work life balance. I’ve never uses a Mac before but I wanted something totally different from a PC, both look and feel. I’ve had so many experiences with Snow White. She traveled with me, have all my photos from the past 9 years, and aside from the battery, it is still in great working condition. She seems ageless and never gave me any issue until now (or actually it’s not her, it’s the third party software that don’t want to support her). I started looking for a new laptop when it reached 7 years. I thought at this time, this laptop is fully depreciated according to IRS, so I “deserve” a new one. I was about to purchase and look at prices for the same laptop. It will cost about $1000 + for me to replace it. This was a big purchase so I figure that I really need to justify the cost.

I delayed the purchase because in my opinion, Snow White still 100% meet my needs. I chose not to upgrade the OS because I know that the hardware can’t keep up with it and at that point, it will be very frustrating to have a slow computer. It lasted for another year until most of the apps are no longer supported. It didn’t bother me since I only use it to write, peruse at photos and surf the net. Actually, the laptop has more processing power than a chrome book which really the only thing I need.

I continued using Snow White. I told myself that I will purchase one once the computer no longer meet my needs. It came to a point when chrome is no longer supported and I cannot access my drive to any browser. Crap, I need to update the OS. At this point, I’m hitting a 9 year mark and it became a fun challenge to keep my laptop until it hit 10 years. A decade for a computer is unheard of! Well, I obviously didn’t hit that mark but I did look at the option of extending her life.

yes, she's not perfect

Cost or purchasing new vs changing and upgrading the hardware

New computer will cost $999 for the basic macbook air. Tax included, it will be $1099. Extending her life will cost roughly $300. This is the cost of the solid state hard drive, ram, batteries and OS. Obviously, extending her life is a cheaper route and it’s a fun experiment to tinker around her. I mean how hard would it be?

It was a hard decision, but after 9 years, I don’t think a $300 investment on her is worth the cost. The processor will still be running the same. I can choose not to upgrade her to latest OS and wait until that is no longer supported, but at this point, it’s just a matter of months and a laptop is a must have in my household.

She’s still in my office. I still plan to upgrade her as a fun project with my little sister. I mean how often can you open and dissect the inside of a macbook? I will try my best to respect her and be very careful when I open her up. Who knows, maybe Snow White v2 will emerge and can be repurpose some other way.

Until next time!

 

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