I have a friend who is in the middle of a huge DIY project. It involves an entire house that’s being gutted, rooms being rebuilt, things installed everywhere.
She ran into a bit of a snag with a floor: a certain brand of floor (we won’t mention) ended up not being great (due to poor quality control) and she’s sending it back. She asked for ideas on what to do next.
I suggested pennies. Yes, you can make a floor out of pennies: DIY Penny Floor God Bless the USA!
But that got me thinking: if you had enough spare change under the couch cushions (work with me here, people), why not use that concept to look for spare change wherever you can find it? OR, to be more direct, to look for a money edge wherever you can, in your continued quest to put an extra $10,000 in your pocket?
And here we go. Just some ideas, things we’ll implement in 2017 that you, too, can give a whirl.
Remember: it’s supposed to be all doom and gloom, right? I mean, a record number of bad things in the economy and a record number of people saying 2016 was a dumpster fire. But you don’t care, as your positive mental attitude about all things will permeate your every effort in 2017.
I’m not kidding: Attitude is Everything.
With that in mind, let’s begin.
crap treasures that you don’t need anymore on ebay.
I decided in November that my 2017 plan was to “sell an item a week on ebay.” So I started implementing my 2017 plan in November of 2016.
Because I track just about everything, I quickly learned a couple things that forced me to recalibrate my strategy.
- Some items move quicker than other items
- Heavier items are better sold locally (Craigslist, for instance)
- This could be an okay side hustle.
For instance, we were able to move the helmet (see photo) rather quickly because the team made the College Football Playoff. And it was right before the holidays and someone wanted to send it as a gift. Score!
We also had a Russian language course and all the news about “Russian Hacking” helped us create interest, so that was a somewhat profitable sale.
However, when we moved to the next phase of our project, we learned a couple of the above points the hard way. Unloading books, for example, may not be the easiest thing to do. A couple of the books we’re listing don’t have any bids yet (hint, hint: who WOULDN’T want a First Edition of this?) and hardcover books might end up being more expensive to ship than they are to purchase.
Pro tip: ebay gives you two options…(1) pay for the shipping or (2) have the buyer pay for the shipping. With almost all of the pieces we’ve listed, we’re letting the buyer pay, since the calculations for shipping could vary wildly depending upon where the buyer is in the country.
And yes, in true 10KaYear style, we’re going to Track Everything. We’ve got the spreadsheet up and we’re so far in the black $33.14 – and that factors in ebay fees we’ve paid as well as items we’re selling that we originally bought (things that we think we’ll net out better selling on ebay than having to pay to ship back to the company we bought from).
2. Maximize free money from work
My wife’s full-time job comes with a qualified retirement plan (a 403(b), which is the not-for-profit version of a 401(k)). They match your contributions up to a certain percentage and, once you give the company a certain amount of service, you are “vested” in the money that the company throws in.
Some of the gurus we talk about here are split on this: Dave Ramsey, for instance, says you should not contribute to a work program, even if there is a match involved, unless you have an emergency fund already in the bank. So if you’re not there yet with the emergency fund, you might want to wait.
Whether or not that was an issue in our case notwithstanding – it wasn’t – we couldn’t pass up free money. So we didn’t pass up free money, signing up just as soon as we possibly could.
3. Maximize free money from Uncle Sam
I’m self-employed, so I get to pay the Self-employment tax that could make for a rather painful quarterly estimated tax payment. Not in my case, though, as I ALWAYS act as if I never had the money anyway, and I over-estimate the amount I pay to cover any bumps along the way.
In most years, I run into a calculation around tax time: how much should I contribute to a retirement plan? What kind of retirement plan should I contribute to? And what is the payoff?
Here’s what I mean…
- Planned tax refund of $5000
- Maximum you can contribute to a qualified plan of $5500
- If you take ALL of that refund and throw it into an IRA by April 15, how much would you net out? (You’ll have to do the math; in one scenario from a couple years ago, we took $5000 from the planned refund, added $500 of our own, made the contribution and netted out with $1300 in the bargain.)
- And then ADD THAT MONEY TO YOUR RETIREMENT CALCULATIONS.
4. Track your work efforts diligently
This is kindof related to item 3, but also related to a whole bunch of other topics (like productivity, being able to focus on what’s important, and spending time on profitable efforts).
I don’t care what system you use. I’ve used Freshbooks for years, but I also use an Excel file, not just as backup but as a replacement for those overkill products that used to be popular a decade ago. (That’s not an affiliate link, BTW. They have a great service and you can upgrade and downgrade as you see fit.)
Once you know where your time is going – and I’m not just talking work you’re being paid for, but also time you spend prospecting, in business development efforts, in meetings, talking to people you might want to hire someday, etc. – you will start to get a better feel for where your time is best spent.
5. Ditch random spending on stuff you don’t need
This is the toughest for me. I’m trying to get better at it…but STARBUCKS IS SO CLOSE BY. AND STARBUCKS HAS A DRIVE-THRU. AND AN APP!
I’m going to do a quick back-of-the-envelope calculation to put this in perspective.
One Starbucks splurge per week at $5, times 52 weeks = $260.
One three-pound bag of Costco Colombian Supremo per month at $16, times 12 months, plus one $55 Costco membership = $247.
You can do the same calculation with other stuff: do you use the $20/month gym membership enough to make it worthwhile? Do you eat out way too often in relation to how much you are bringing in?
6. Take (web) inventory
I need to get better at this one – and you may not find all of this relevant. But some of it may be.
For instance, I have subscriptions to things that I’m certain I don’t need. I have websites that I own and don’t use quite enough. I have premium content I pay for and don’t maximize. I have affiliate programs I’m part of that I just don’t drive the eyeballs to.
I need to ask myself: “Which of these things are getting in the way?”
You might actually have more money lying around than you think…
It’s a combination of knowing where to look, knowing what to focus on, and knowing what you have the stomach for – that’s where you might find that those couch cushions could very well be profitable ones.